This is the hardest review I’ll ever write because this book was personal to me. I need to say that upfront because what you’re about to read is a little different from previous reviews we’ve written.
Let’s start with some background…
Hook Shot is the fourth and final book (third full-length novel) of the HOOPS series. And I gotta say, Kennedy saved the best for last. I don’t want to take away from Iris and August (Long Shot), Banner and Jared (Block Shot), and Avery and Decker (HOOPS Holiday), but Lotus and Kenan steal the show with their opposites-attract chemistry and nobody’s-gonna-bring-us-down respect they have for each other. Lotus, who works in the fashion industry, and Kenan, who is an NBA player, could not be more different from each other. One likes “mumble rap,” while the other likes classic jazz. One is an extrovert, while the other is an introvert. One likes to text, while the other likes to handwrite notes. One lives on the East Coast, while the other lives on the West Coast. You get what I’m saying. Different…and yet they’re completely in synch. They get each other, and they just work. I loved their story. I loved how authentic it felt—the characters are so real, I found I was putting myself in their shoes to process what they’re processing, to decide on what they’re deciding between.
Hook Shot has a stick-to-your-ribs plot. What I mean by that is it’s layered and full of substance. The story isn’t about one thing. It’s about many things, and they all work and blend and flow together. It’s this blend that has stayed with me. Which brings me to the heavy…
I’m not big on trigger warnings, but there is one for this book, and there’s a reason why it’s there. Without getting too much into it (for fear of giving anything away), I will say, I experienced some of what Lotus experienced. Reliving it through this book was the toughest reading experience I’ve ever had, but I want to give Kennedy credit because she really went for it. She didn’t shy away from a tough topic. She went full force, and she nailed it. What she describes is so real, I felt for Lotus and for every other person who has undergone such trauma. Kennedy’s writing is so impactful, so meaningful. After I gasped out loud and dropped my Kindle, I took a breath and thought about why she was doing this. Why Kennedy writes about the hard stuff. It’s because she wants to help people heal. She wants people to know they’re not alone. She knows that her words have power, so she keeps her weapon sharp.
This is not the first time Kennedy has brought up painful subjects. In fact, all the books in her HOOPS series involve characters who battle demons—abuse, mental illness, body image, trauma. Pain and struggle, shame and fight. Kennedy is fast becoming one of my favorite authors because she’s not afraid to dig deep, and that’s the kind of work I really respect. These are the kinds of stories I want to read.
This book is so much more than a romance. It’s about people working through differences to find commonalities. It’s about fierce women who are raw and have a strong sense of self. It’s about family and voodoo and “Hopscotch.” It is more than paper and ink and digitized text. It is a book that matters. I hope you read it. And I hope you love it as much as I did.
Reading Erica’s review was tough. I know what she had a hard time with and I completely understand. I am not saying I can comprehend how she feels about the trigger and what it must be like for someone with that experience to read about someone else’s experience. But one thing is for sure: That was a big step and I am hugely proud of her for taking it.
While Erica mentioned there being a trigger warning from the author at the beginning of the book, I didn’t feel like this book centered around that event. Yes, it was a big part, but to me, it felt like Hook Shot was about more than that. It‘s about coming to terms with shit happening to you, growing from that shit, and eventually, healing.
When reviewing romance-esque books, I try to think about the male lead and how realistic they are. Being that Kenan is a six-foot-eight-inch tall African American who plays professional basketball for the NBA, you can see how much he and I with my five-foot-eleven-inch pasty gingerness have in common. I mean, we are practically twins!
While our lives aren’t exactly mirror images of each other, there were parts I appreciated and could relate to. Kenan had a hard time opening up, loved intensely, got jealous, and told super awesome “dad jokes.” He also made family a priority. I loved that.
Some of my favorite moments were the interactions between Kenan and his sister, Kenya. They jab at each other and push each other’s buttons, but you could tell that if anyone else did that to one of them, the other would cut ‘em!
As for the quality of the writing, Kennedy Ryan’s ability to recognize when to describe an important scene and when to let the reader imagine the scene stood out to me as the highlight of the book. I’m sure we have all read books where we get a detailed description of something and find ourselves thinking, “Okay, but why do I care that the cat is in purple pajamas?” Kennedy, on the other hand, uses these rare descriptive scenes to move the story forward and to acknowledge the growth in each character. For example, in the second chapter there is a single kiss that is described over multiple pages. It was so hot I had to go get a cold washcloth and wipe my face down. Sweet Jesus, it was intense.
Later, in a dramatic moment for Lotus, Kennedy writes what Kenan was thinking when he saw Lotus walking through a park to meet him. The descriptions were so vivid and clear: “…a flash of color catches my eye. A small gap in the crowd reveals silk the color of butter spread on sun-toasted skin. A woman wears a backless yellow jumper that clings to her ass. What looks like an intricate zipper with tiny flowers instead of teeth is tattooed up her naked spine. A huge cloud of golden-brown hair with curls and waves on the loose fans out and around her neck and the curve of her shoulder.”
I can see that woman; I can practically feel her walking up to me. It made my heart beat faster, as if it was real life.
Yes, Hook Shot has a lot of sexy-time talk, but it doesn’t feel gratuitous. Each interaction illustrates character development, including how and why they put themselves out there. As I mentioned before, underneath it all, the book is more about growth and healing than just bangity-bang-bang (albeit super-hot bangity-bang-bang).
The following quote is from the book and feels like a great way to wrap up my part: “Sometimes we hold so tightly to the hurt from the past that we miss the happiness ahead, and if there is one thing we deserve, Lotus, it’s happiness wherever we can find it.”
Go get this book. Read it and find a way to grow and heal in your own way.
Matt mentioned a couple quotes in his part of the review, but honestly we could go on and on about the language in this story. It is effortless and captivating and relatable. Aside from Kennedy’s ability to manipulate description into something stunning, she is also adept at seamlessly incorporating biblical references, making them a natural part of the narrative. #talent
There’s a reason why this book has been sailing to the top of bestseller and Top 10 lists. It sucks you in from the get-go and doesn’t let go.
To purchase a copy of or read a synopsis for Kennedy Ryan’s Hook Shot, click here.