Taylor Jenkins Reid Serves Another Hit with ‘Carrie Soto is Back’

After September saw the end of Serena William’s illustrious tennis career, fans itching for something more are sure to enjoy Taylor Jenkins Reid’s newest novel, “Carrie Soto is Back.” Carrie Soto is a 37-year-old former professional tennis star who, when her Grand Slam record is taken, decides to come out of retirement and reclaim her title. The final installation in Reid’s “Famous Four” series is her fourth novel to center on a famous woman during the late 20th century and to have an appearance of the character Mick Riva. Reid fans may recall Carrie Soto’s cameo in her 2021 bestseller “Malibu Rising,” a further development in what some have taken to calling the “Taylor Jenkins Reid Cinematic Universe.” 

The idea of this “cinematic universe” contributes to the atmospheric nature of “Carrie Soto.” In one chapter, Carrie reads about the band “Daisy Jones and the Six,” the titular characters from Reid’s second “Famous Four” novel from 2019. This callback places readers squarely in the time frame of the 1980s to 1990s alongside a myriad of real-life pop culture references. Carrie plays at Wimbledon while Princess Diana collaborates with Adidas to create a line of Breakpoint sneakers and reads tabloid articles on the scandal of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. While I find pop culture details in contemporary novels often remove me from the narrative, they do the opposite in Reid’s work by establishing the time frame of her characters. When enjoying “Carrie Soto,” readers are fully immersed in the culture of the period. 

Reid furthers this audience engagement by creating playlists to reflect both her character’s music taste and their story. Carrie’s playlist features hits from Salt n’ Peppa, Janet Jackson and Alanis Morisette, women climbing the ranks of the music industry at the same time Carrie was in tennis. If I were to add a song to the playlist, I would suggest Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero.” While not contemporary to Carrie, the idea of not always being palatable – or being hard to root for – is integral to Carrie’s story.

Reid’s previous Famous Four novels focused on one era of the protagonist’s life but “Carrie Soto is Back” follows its namesake from the very beginning. It is not only a story about tennis but also weaves in themes of father-daughter relationships, the cost of success, aging, love and, of course, women in sports. 

“Look, it’s totally fine to read my books just because you want to have a good time and hear a good story. But I work really hard to write books that are saying something about what it means to be a woman and how society treats women,” said Reid in an interview with Glamour

I went into the novel with little to no knowledge of tennis and yet Reid’s words on femininity and the different ways women define and achieve success resonated with me. I read this novel during my first month of college and Carrie’s words on maturing spoke to me. 

“My older self knows that you must stop in the middle of the chaos to take in the world around you. To breathe in deeply, smell the sunscreen and the rubber of the ball, let the breeze blow across your neck, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. In this respect, I love the way the world has aged me,” said Carrie in a particularly poignant section of the novel. 

Carrie’s idea to breathe and take in every moment of the experience reminded me to find the little moments of joy in my college experience. Whether it be the leaves falling on my walk to Case Library or a sunset outside my dorm, “Carrie Soto” taught me that while the newness of it all can seem scary, there is always a small moment of beauty to enjoy; one must be present for these to truly get the most out of their college experience. I would recommend “Carrie Soto is Back” to not only tennis fans but fans of comeback stories in any sport. Anyone who loves a morally flawed protagonist will get a kick out of Carrie as well. And, of course, anyone missing watching Serena Williams serve (in both senses of the word) on the tennis court can get their dose of tennis in “Carrie Soto is Back.”