The Revenge Playbook
by Rachael Allen
Expected Publication Date: June 16, 2015
Length: 368 pages
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
Don’t get mad, get even! In this poignant and hilarious novel, Rachael Allen brilliantly explores the nuances of high school hierarchies, the traumas sustained on the path to finding true love, and the joy of discovering a friend where you least expect.
In the small town of Ranburne, high school football rules and the players are treated like kings. How they treat the girls they go to school with? That’s a completely different story. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana each have their own reason for wanting to teach the team a lesson—but it’s only when circumstances bring them together that they come up with the plan to steal the one thing the boys hold sacred. All they have to do is beat them at their own game.
Brimming with sharp observations and pitch-perfect teen voices, fans of Jenny Han and Sarah Mlynowski are sure to fall head-over-heels for this sharp tale—by the author of 17 First Kisses—about the unexpected roads that can lead you to finding yourself.
Group of girls coming together for a purpose? Check.
Girls supporting each other and having each other’s backs? Check.
Girls taking control of their own agency, making their own sexual choices, and not being shamed for them no matter the choice? Check.
Girls confronting slut shaming? Check.
Girls generally being awesome? Check.
The Revenge Playbook made me feel all sorts of things about what it means to be a teenage girl, how sport culture often impacts adolescence, and what happens when those two things collide. This story takes place in a town called Ranburne in which football rules the school. Growing up in a small town Texas, this is a culture I’m pretty familiar with, so most of the events within the book transported me back to my own high school memories.
The four main characters of The Revenge Playbook have all been hurt, in various degrees, by members of the Ranburne football team and the football culture in general. Even though these four girls might not be friends otherwise, they end up teaming up thanks to a chance encounter at an ice cream shop to beat the football team at their own game–a scavenger hunt for the sacred football of ’76, when the team won a state championship.
The Revenge Playbook mostly takes place the night of the scavenger hunt, with accompanying flashbacks to provide more insight into how these four girls ended up in a car together and why they each have problems with members of the football team. My only real issue with the The Revenge Playbook was this–there’s the main story, then the flashbacks(which all take place at different points), but there’s also four first person point-of-views. This is the second 2015 YA release I’ve read with this patterned and it truly confounds me as to why. It’s not a natural way to follow a story in the least.
This issue was compounded by the fact I didn’t find the four 1st person points-of-view that easily to distinguish. I don’t want to say they were exactly alike–I’ve definitely read worst split points-of-view–but it was enough that I had trouble keeping track at first. This got better as I got to know the history of each of the girls, so I wasn’t too confused by the middle of the book. However, I could see this being a problem for some readers.
Other than that, The Revenge Playbook was really fantastic. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana all have separate and supported reasons as to why they have beef with the football team. Two of the girls find their boyfriends break-up with them due to peer pressure of the football team, one girl has trouble learning because of the favoritism shown to members of the team in class, and one had a terrible experience with a football player at a party and found out just how far favoritism goes.
I loved The Revenge Playbook for this look inside this culture. Sports culture is incredibly real and we’ve seen in the news before how that can play out in real life–sports players getting off easily for sexual violence crimes, accusations not being taken seriously, etc. The book also does a great job at looking into the mob mentality that can become so prevalent. Some of the members of the football team are terrible guys, but of course some aren’t–but they’re pressured into doing certain things by other members.
The best part of The Revenge Playbook, though, is the exploration of where this sport culture intersects with the girls of Ranburne. Y’all, I loved the girl support in The Revenge Playbook SO MUCH. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Ana and Melanie Jane used to be friends, turned enemies, only brought back together for the purpose of revenge. That friendship is explored too, and there’s some girls being mean to other girls, which is totally realistic. But the four main characters? As they become friends, they support each other. They watch out for each other. They’re in this together, and it’s just so delightful and refreshing to see such girl support in YA without ever diving into the “not like other girls” mentality.
Plus, each of the girls are given so much agency over their relationships throughout the story. While two of them have boyfriends who break up with them because of pressure from the football team, it’s quite clear through the narrative that these are girls who can make their own choices. One girl has sex with her boyfriend, is called a slut, and that’s called out by her friends and her boyfriend. One girl decides she doesn’t want to have sex until she’s married, and that choice is also respected. It’s amazing to see these four girls to support each other all the way throughout the book, and while there were many aspects of The Revenge Playbook I enjoyed, that one is going to stay with me the longest.
The Revenge Playbook was really great for the most part. It took some patience on my part to get to a point in the book where I could distinguish between the four narrators, so I wasn’t such a fan of that, but the story itself was original. I just really loved the four girls coming together and generally being awesome. 4/5 cupcakes.