For those who know me, I love the sport of tennis. I actually love sports. I think they are one of the real dramas in life. They are unpredictable and entertaining. They happen live so no edits or rewrites. Almost nothing can unite a group of people, city, state or country the way sports can. So yeah, I love sports but I really love tennis. So two years ago, when tennis legend Monica Seles decided to write a teen novel, I was so on it. So in honor of the Australian Open currently being played, here’s the skinny on The Academy Series.
I once described the first book in the The Academy Series, Game On, to friends as Gossip Girl meets Bollettieri’s. For those not in the know, Bollettieri’s is a tennis academy in Florida that has produced such great champions as Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova and Seles herself. In Game On we are introduced to Maya, a tennis player who dreams of playing professionally. She has earned an scholarship into the prestigious Academy that will hopefully set her on her way to tennis glory. There are two ways into the Academy, scholarships or just being filthy rich and buying your way in. At the Academy Maya meets many different people. There’s Cleo, her roommate, who hopes to make it in Golf to support her family in China. Nicole, already a tennis star, who is threatened by Maya. Renee, a swimmer, who’s rich family has sort of dumped her there even though she doesn’t really have much athletic ability and Travis and Jake, sons the of Academy owner. Travis, the golden son being groomed for Football glory and Jake, the bad boy living in his brother’s shadow. I think you get the picture.
Now, these are not the greatest books but I don’t think anyone who picked them up were looking for them to be. They are fun beach reads with not a lot of substance but a whole lot of drama. It turns out that Maya has more to worry about than just her tennis. She also has to contend with possible endorsement deals, internet gossip, jealous rivals and boys’ fickle affection. Life at the Academy is a lot harder than Maya thought it would be. The best thing about Game on and it’s sequel, Love Match is the friendship between Maya, Cleo and Renee. Renee is clearly in the Haves and Maya and Cleo, the Haves-not but they make it work. You don’t always get books with good female friendships. (You don’t really get it in movies or TV for that matter either.) Girls are often rivals for grades, boys, beauty, etc. I really dug the friendship of these girls. They are vastly different. Cleo is a free spirit and a lesbian. Renee is super rich and beautiful and Maya is your average American girl from Buffalo. They are constantly supporting each other and pushing each other forward. They sometimes get jealous of each other but they do always find ways back to each other. Oh and they talk to each other. What a concept! What I don’t really like about the series is the lack of tennis. Maya is determined to make it as a player. It’s her dream but tennis often falls to the back burner as soon as she has an opportunity to pose for an ad campaign or audition for a movie or Travis or Jake start to show interest in her. It’s not until one of those things falls apart that she recommits herself to tennis. Promising to focus on tennis from then on or until, you know, the next thing pops up. Not exactly the best message for young girls.
So basically, if you are looking for a book about girls and sports, this really isn’t it. It definitely has it’s problems but I do think fans of Gossip Girl and the like will like it. At the moment, it’s only the two books. Seles definitely left things open for a third book but I haven’t been able to find any news of a third book coming out. I have to admit that does disappoint me because there are some story lines that would like to see how they unfold but those are the breaks.
Bonus: For more on The Academy, here’s Brian Phillips of Grantland.com’s hilarious review of the series.