For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a complete and total football junkie and have been since I was a toddler. I’m also an avid reader and quite enjoy the genre known as “chick lit”. One of my favourite writers in this genre has been Emily Giffin . I find her work engaging and fun to read with characters I can relate to. Given this, imagine my glee when I found out that Giffin’s latest book, The One & Only, was going to feature a female football reporter as the protagonist. I may have squealed. Loudly. Then I made an almost fatal mistake – I crowd sourced. I often hit up Goodreads when I find a book I like just to see what others have thought about it. I saw a lot of negative Nellies complaining about the book making generalizations about women who love football always being in it for a guy, that there was too much football (no such thing imho) and not enough plot, or that the characters weren’t relatable. I hate feeling disappointed or let down by an author I love so I put the book aside for a few days to think about whether or not I wanted to read it. I took it up to the cottage with me because I’m always running out of books to read (especially when the weather is as dismal as it was this summer, rainy and cold for most of my vacation) and I’m really glad I did. Had I not read the book based on those few Goodreads users who really disliked the book, I would have missed out on one of my favourite books so far this year.
I could immediately relate to the main character, Shea Rigsby. I lost track of the number of times I said “Oh My God, Yes. That.” while reading after the first 3 chapters. I thought there was just the right amount of football details in the book, especially considering that a portion of the target audience wouldn’t have much prior knowledge of the intricacies of the sport. Giffin was careful to give readers enough information to be able to understand how football worked within the context of the plot but didn’t overload readers with useless tidbits. Being Canadian, I am more used to how college football works up here, so the extra insight into the NCAA and how the organization impacts every team was eye opening.
The One & Only isn’t just a book about football though; it is a book about love, loyalty, football, and change. None of these themes operate in isolation and they all complement each other beautifully to make this book impossible to put down. I think almost every reader can relate to Shea’s struggle to follow her heart and the questions of loyalty that doing that create for her. We have all been in Shea’s shoes at one point in our lives – trying to decide if we should step off the edge into the unknown or stay close to home, with our security blanket. For Shea, stepping off the edge means leaving the town she grew up in, the one where her best friend lives, where she went to college, and where she got a job working for the athletic department at the school. Shea has begun to wonder if all she has ever known is enough – or if there is something better out there in the wider world. Along the way, Shea finds that some of the people in her life aren’t who she thought they were and that loyalty is more than wearing a team jersey on game day. In essence this is a coming of age novel, where the protagonist is left to discover The One and Only thing that makes her life worth living.
In the end, I was not able to put the book down until it was finished and have re-read it once already and recommended it to random strangers in bookstores if I saw them hovering near a copy of the book. The moral of my story is pretty simple – don’t judge a book by it’s cover (although this one is gorgeous and understated and perfect), and don’t be put off by a few negative reviews on a social media site. You may miss out on an amazing read.
The One & Only is available in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audio, and E-book editions.