The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford

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Pan Macmillan 2018. ISBN 9781760552091
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Themes: Tennis, Competition. Harper is determined to make it in the tennis world, despite her namesake, 1940's tennis hopeful, Harper losing his tennis match in a record breaking eighteen minutes. But she loses all confidence in her ability when her long time coach quits, advising her to concentrate on doubles. Her best friend Jacob from next door, comforts her but he has just broken up with her sister, Aria, and is becoming closer to Harper, something Harper has longed for for many years.
After watching the Australian Open it was enlightening to read of the regime imposed on those young dedicated people we see on TV. This romantic novel gives background to the work these people do in getting themselves into the matches that matter, vying for a spot in the world rankings, finding a coach who fits their needs, and struggling with their own dips in confidence.
But for Hunter her relationship with her sister and Jacob are paramount, colouring her life while she trains and goes overseas to compete. She loves her closeness to Jacob, but feels she is betraying Aria, who still loves him. Her new coach, Milo teams her with Colt, a young brash, driven American who is prickly and defensive. But as time goes on, with the training regime given by Milo, their needs coincide, and they relax with each other. But when Aria wants to give up her dream of gaining admittance to the conservatory of music, unable to accept her failed relationship with Jacob, Harper's guilt increases, affecting everything she does.
This is an absorbing read, the setting is always fascinating, giving a reality to the lives of the tennis competitors we see on TV, but made more sympathetic by seeing them just as young adults, striving with their own growing up, with sometimes erratic family lives, some issues playing against their dreams of breaking into the tennis circuit. This will be eagerly picked up by secondary readers interested in how Harper manages her increasingly tangled relationships with Aria, Jacob and Colt, as well as her blossoming tennis career, although some readers may find that reading 374 pages requires stamina.
Fran Knight