The Game Can't Love You Back

The Game Can't Love You Back

by Karole Cozzo

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250163899
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: 05/15/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 155,527
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Karole Cozzo, author of How to Say I Love You Out Loud, How to Keep Rolling After a Fall, The Truth About Happily Ever After, and The Game Can't Love You Back, lives outside of Philadelphia with her loving husband, unendingly exuberant daughter, and eternally pleasant son. She is a school psychologist by day and a lover of all things colorful and creative by night. Karole spends her free time drawing with her young artists-in-residence, making photo books, decorating her home, and of course, writing.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

March 1

Eve

I'm seeing stars.

I wake up at six forty-five a.m. and hazy early morning sunbeams illuminate my sheer curtains, but after my eyes adjust to the light, I'm still seeing stars.

Three smaller stars shoot out from the marble base of the trophy, aspiring to reach the bigger, central star they frame, the one that's engraved with a golden basketball. The trophy is draped in the net from the championship game. The W was a team effort, and some might say the net should be displayed with the big team trophy at school. But most people would say the net belongs to me, so here it is.

I smile, the same smile I've woken with for the past week, since the trophy came home with me. My trophy spent the first night on the pillow beside my head, but now it's in its permanent home so I can wake to the sight of it every morning. State champions. It has a damn fine ring to it.

My gaze drifts to the left of the trophy, coming to rest on the framed certificate commemorating my selection to the All-County Girls' Soccer First Team in the fall. EVE MARSHALL, FARMINGTON SOUTH, JUNIOR, 5'8?, FORWARD. Not as newsworthy as a state championship, but the best I could hope for. Offense wins games; defense wins championships. And on the soccer field, I didn't have the defense to back me up and take us all the way. A familiar sense of satisfaction fills my chest as I look at my name. I don't say it out loud, but maybe I prefer individual accolades anyway. I was pumped I'd been recognized as an individual, at least.

And then my gaze drifts right, past the stars, to the empty spot I'd reserved on my shelf. Before, a Cy Young trophy ending up there was inevitable, but now ... My smile disappears as I grind my molars together. Stupid fire. Stupid Dr. Coyle and heartless administrative decision-making. They've effed up everything.

I whip my covers back, my feet hit the cold wood floor, and I storm into the bathroom for a quick shower. My thick, long dark hair is so routinely plaited into two French braids to keep it out of my face, it could probably braid itself by now, and it stays in place despite the shower.

Then, feeling subversive — and ready, willing, and able to show it — I tug a Farmington South Bulldogs hoodie over my head and pull on a pair of black sweatpants. My sneakers are the only clothing I put any time into selecting. Studying all eleven pairs of Nikes, I finally select the black-and-fluorescent- green Cross Bionics. They're badass. Superhero colors.

After bounding down the stairs, I'm in and out of the kitchen in a flash, grabbing a Clif Bar from the pantry and a bottle of Minute Maid from the fridge. Marcella's already behind the wheel of the cheery red Jetta parked in the driveway next door. She's bobbing her head, shiny brown hair gyrating right along with her, and her lips are moving. Taylor Swift. I inhale a deep breath. I just know it's Taylor Swift.

I sling my backpack onto my shoulders and cross the narrow patch of grass that separates our houses. As I climb into the passenger seat, she quickly swipes her index finger across the face of her iPhone to silence the music, but not before I get a glimpse of the cover art on the screen, a wild mass of blond curls and red lips. Swifty. Knew it.

"Good morning, Eve," she greets me.

I glance at Marcella's colorful outfit. Mustard wool miniskirt, tight red sweater worn over a shirt that she'd referred to as "chambray" when I'd questioned if jean shirts were really in style outside of Nashville. She should look like a walking advertisement for hot dog condiments, but somehow, on Marcella, it works. It always works. "Why are you so fancy today?" I ask.

"It's not fancy, it's classy. There's a difference." She gives me a once-over and scrunches her face up. "Why are you so unfancy? You look like you just rolled out of bed."

"Look at my face." I give her my death stare and toss my bag onto the floor with more force than necessary. "Does it look like I'm in the mood?" Marcella shrugs once and backs out of the driveway. I'm pretty sure she knows better than to take my moods personally.

For the record, probably the only, and I mean only, reasons Marcella and I became best friends are (1) we were born exactly one week apart, and (2) we have lived next door to each other our whole lives. There's no undoing a friendship that was an entire childhood in the making, regardless of how totally different we've always been.

So we drive in comfortable silence the two and a half miles to Scott's house, finding him sitting at the curb, eating a sausage-and-egg breakfast sandwich. A second one is wrapped in foil on the sidewalk beside him. His face breaks out in that wide, patented Scott grin the second he sees us, for no damn reason at all. Scott's always smiling for no damn reason at all, and usually the sight of his smile makes me smile, too. Scott MacIntyre's my other best friend, the "mac to my cheese" as he likes to say, but nothing can shake my surly mood today.

Scott is short and squat, as if his body's been compressed from all the time he's spent behind the plate, catching for me, and he lumbers into the backseat. He leans over the headrest and grips my shoulders with both hands. He shakes me a little bit. "Pitchers report today, baby!"

I twist in my seat and give him my best Really? face.

He collapses back with a sigh and buckles his seat belt. "The team is going to be stronger than ever," he says. "You just need to get with the program."

"You're delusional if you think it's going to be that simple." I flick my braids over my shoulders and reach down to pull my chem binder from my bag, promptly ending the conversation. I have an exam today, and it won't hurt to work out a few more practice equations now, especially since I'm supposed to be picking trash up with the Go Green Club during my study hall. And it's a waste of his breath to try to convince me that what's happening today is a good thing.

I inhale sharply as I remember last season's first practice. I jumped out of bed that day, counted down the minutes of every single class. The memory brings a stabbing pain of loss to my gut. I used to relish the first day of practice. Today I'm dreading it like nothing else. I clench my fists around the binder edges, my mixed-up emotions simmering down to a bitter anger as I consider — for about the hundredth time — the injustice of it all.

* * *

When we enter the lobby, which still smells and feels unfamiliar — even two months in — an invisible magnet draws Brian to Marcella. Literally. Their bodies make contact at several points, simultaneously. Fingertips. Hips. Lips. It's all a little bit too much for 7:40 in the morning. Okay, a lot bit too much. I should be used to it by now, since Brian and Marcella are pretty much an institution. Brian and Marcella. Marcella and Brian. They've been together for so long now, sometimes it's hard to tell where Marcella ends and Brian starts.

They turn back toward me and Scott. We huddle close together in the crowded space, still working at recognizing faces, trying to find friends among strangers. The lines are starting to blur some, which aggravates me. Hands in fists, I fold my arms across the bulldog on my chest, just as a rowdy group behind me shoves its smallest member, a short girl with pink hair the color of Bazooka gum, right into my back, pushing me into Scott.

"Whoa, sorry." She giggles as she attempts to right herself, pulling her oversize black hoodie back up on her shoulder.

I get a better look at her. In addition to the cotton-candy-colored hair, she has pink-and-blue gauges in both earlobes. Two round studs pierce the skin above her lips. Underneath the heavy eye makeup, she looks like she's about twelve.

Then she scampers off, losing herself among the group of ripped-black-shirt-wearing guys who were jostling her about.

I quirk an eyebrow and shake my head.

"Your judgment is showing." Scott grins, nudging me in the ribs. "You might want to tuck that back in."

"No judgment," I lie. "I just don't get people like that. Who works so hard at not fitting in?"

Marcella snickers.

"What?"

I swear her gaze flicks to my Bulldogs sweatshirt, but she just smiles at Brian and shakes her head. "Nothing." She tugs on his hand. "We should go. The student council meeting's all the way down in Mrs. Trimble's room. And today we're taking the final vote on the prom theme!"

"Okay, babe."

Marcella, the eternal good sport, is handling the loss of her presidency over the junior class of Farmington South with grace and dignity, jumping right back into school politics at Farmington East without missing a beat. She separates herself from Brian for a quick second to give me a hug, the scent of her trademark Burberry perfume washing over me. "See you at lunch." She tugs on a braid before reaching for Brian's hand again.

"See you."

My gaze follows them as they're swallowed up by the sea of bodies, and I catch a glimpse of some of my friends from the South girls' basketball team in the alcove near the ramp. I gesture toward them and Scott nods, down for whatever. I take three steps in their direction ... and then stop in my tracks, fingers tightening into an angry claw around my black backpack strap.

Blocking my path is the Farmington East baseball team. Its members are loud and amped, several of them dressed in last year's T-shirts, bearing the words THERE'S NO "I" IN TEAM. And as I watch them, they get even louder and more amped, calling out and slapping fives. Because their captain has just arrived, whipping them into a frenzy.

And God grant me patience. Because if his entrance wasn't so damn irritating, I would walk over and laugh in his pretty face.

Jamie Abrams.

He swaggers across the lobby with the air of a rapper who's sustained a gunshot wound or something. I mean, I swear, he might actually be faking a limp. It's early March and partly cloudy, yet he has sunglasses on. Inside. Jamie's got his East baseball cap on backward, and he's wearing his Windbreaker, embroidered with his cocky nickname — ACE — in gold over his chest.

Jamie Abrams, God's gift to Farmington baseball. God's gift to Farmington girls.

I can't stand him.

Not that I've ever spoken to him. I've been avoiding him like the plague the past couple of months.

But that doesn't stop me from hating him, or more specifically, hating the idea of him. From what I've observed — discreetly, of course — his prime objectives for coming to school include flaunting his overhyped image and finding his next hookup. He's always talking, always laughing, always whispering in one girl or another's ear. I can't really believe he takes anything that seriously, so I highly doubt that baseball is an exception.

Even if he has been the star pitcher for two years and counting, securing the position his freshman year, which is pretty much unheard-of. He's good, sure, but there's no way in hell he's as dedicated as I am.

Yet I'm willing to bet he feels entitled to that Cy Young trophy. Because everyone makes him out to be such a rock star. Because this team is more his than mine.

That trophy belongs on my shelf.

And there's only one for the taking now.

My natural competitive impulses flare, and I realize I'm glaring at him. I shake my head in frustration. I'm used to glaring at the person in the batter's box, not the one wearing the same uniform.

As I stand there, shooting daggers, something weird happens. I see the muscles in his back tense beneath his Windbreaker and he stops running his mouth, midsentence. He turns and looks right in my direction, as though he can feel my fiery gaze upon his back.

Slowly, he removes his hat, running one hand over the top of his close-cropped light brown hair. The glasses come off next, and before I'm ready for it, his cool, steady, slate-blue eyes are piercing mine. The look on his face bears no trace of the sleepy-eyed, cocky smirk combo I usually see him using when he focuses on other girls.

All laughter has drained from his face, and his glare is as ice-cold as the one I've got trained on him is hot.

I think it's the first time he's ever really looked at me. And in that instant, it's crystal clear — as crystal clear as those blue eyes of his — that he feels the same way about me as I feel about him.

This is why it doesn't matter that I'm wearing a Bulldogs hoodie. Why I couldn't embrace Marcella's cheerful mood this morning and why I dismissed Scott's contention that our teams coming together will make Farmington baseball even stronger.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter where we go to school or what mascot I wear on my shirt now. Locked in a staring contest with Jamie, I know I'm right. We're not on the same team. Not at all.

CHAPTER 2

March 1

Jamie

"Morning, handsome."

My mom's in the kitchen when I come downstairs, standing at the counter, stirring artificial creamer into this huge travel coffee mug. She tries to assault me with a hug as I pass her, but I shrug her off. She knows I'm not a morning person.

"Morning, Ma," I mutter, opening the pantry, considering my options. Half-empty box of Target-brand reduced-fat granola. Probably half-stale, too. Unopened box of Froot Loops. No-brainer. I grab Toucan Sam and rip open the cardboard.

When I turn back around to get a bowl, I see the tension in her shoulders. "What?"

Her lips twitch nervously. "What's wrong with granola? It's healthier."

"I like Froot Loops."

She doesn't say anything right away, but eventually she gives me the usual reminder. "You two can't keep letting open boxes of cereal go to waste."

I stare down at my full bowl of cereal, wishing she wasn't standing there making me feel guilty about my breakfast. "It's just cereal."

"Everything can't be 'it's just.'"

I pick up the box and set it back down on the table for emphasis. "It's just cereal," I repeat.

She takes a big swig of coffee and resets her smile, backing off. "So practice starts today, huh?" I shovel cereal into my mouth, nodding while I chew and swallow. "Yep."

My mom approaches me again, smiling warmly, and rubs at one shoulder. "You feeling good?"

"Always."

Then she leaves her hand there. Lately, it's like she's always trying to make contact, like she needs someone to hold on to. I don't really like the way it feels, being that someone, but she's trying to do things differently these days, so I let her lean on me sometimes. "Text me and let me know how it goes, okay? I have to work a double today."

"Okay."

"Have you gotten to know some of the guys from South?"

"Yeah, I knew a bunch of them already from summer ball. You know Brayden and Noah Turner, right? And Jake Pawlings, who was on the Padres with me back in the day?"

"I recognize those names."

I shrug, pouring some more cereal into my bowl. "The other guys, I met them at tryouts this past week. They're all right."

A half smile lifts her left cheek, and her eyebrow goes up at the same time. "Any threats?"

A psssh sound escapes my lips. "Not even close."

Although ...

I narrow my eyes at the milk, thinking of the one person I didn't meet at tryouts last week.

Not even close, I think again.

There's an obnoxious clatter on the stairs, and a second later, O appears. My hand freezes, spoon halfway to my mouth. My half sister has done lots of things to make herself look silly, but this takes the game to a whole new level. I stare at her as I chew my last spoonful of cereal. Shaking my head as I take the empty bowl to the sink, I murmur my opinion to no one in particular. "You look completely ridiculous."

She rolls her eyes comically. "Annnd, good morning to you, too, Sunshine." Olivia glances at the table and claps her hands. "Yay, Froot Loops!"

Mom's pursing her lips again, over the cereal or O's latest makeover, I don't know. But she chooses not to comment on either and digs around in her purse for her keys. "All right, kiddos, I'm off." She squares her shoulders and lifts her mug, ready to take on the working world.

In actuality, I've been a part of the working world longer than she has. George is a good guy, and he let me start taking shifts at Best's Burger Barn and Shake Shack, paying me under the table before I could legally work.

Mom plants a kiss on the top of my head, and then more hesitantly on the top of my sister's — God only knows what chemicals were responsible for that train wreck — before opening the back door. "Hit the road. Don't be late."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Game Can't Love You Back"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Karole Cozzo.
Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Game Can't Love You Back 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
sincerelykarenjo More than 1 year ago
4.5 - Heartwarming, Cute, and Incredibly Inspiring I think I’m slowly warming up to sports themed books and might just be my newest obsession. I didn’t really care for them that much before since I’m not into sports, but the books I’ve read in the past few months were pretty darn good. The Game Can’t Love You Back by Karole Cozzo was no exception and I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. I even had tears in the end and couldn’t stop smiling and swooning. Enemies to lovers stories are just the absolute the best. I love the angst, the tension, the bantering, the build-up, and of course the romance. Karole Cozzo did fantastically and managed to create a genuine, realistic, and believable story about two rivals who end up falling for each other. Eve and Jamie totally had me going crazy with all the FEELS and I loved it! From their not so nice insults to their adorably cute bantering, they made me gush and root for them. I thought their story was beautifully written and devloped with plenty of sweet moments and swoony kisses. Eve and Jamie were so frustrtingly cute together and their chemistry was amazing. They were both incredibly competitive and did not give up too easily. Eve was fiesty and ridiculously stubborn, but also incredibly hard-working, dedicated and smart. Jamie had a reputation of being a player and was sometimes a jerk, so it took a while to win me over. However, by the end of the book, I can honetly say that he’s more than earned his place in my heart. Underneath all his bravado, Jamie actually had such a big heart and was really a sweet guy. Together they were kind of a mess, but also pretty darn perfect. The Game Can’t Love You Back was a heartwarming and delightful story about acceptance and taking chances. It’s funny and cute, but also genuine and wonderfully inspiring. I loved the writing, the characters and the crazy bantering that went from horribly sour to sugary sweet. This was definitely a home run for me and I cannot wait to read more books by Cozzo. I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley for participating in a Blog Tour hosted by Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Melinda Grace More than 1 year ago
Eve Marshall is the exact type of female protag we need in YA right now. She's fierce, she's smart AF, and she stands up for who she is, unapologetically. In Karole Cozzo's newest book THE GAME CAN'T LOVE YOU BACK, we not only get a strong-willed, independent female, we also get a sensitive male willing to actually take a step back. These two aren't the most endearing in the beginning, but Cozzo, once again, artfully takes seemingly unlikable characters and makes the reader fall in love with them. Eve is stubborn as all get out, angry, unhappy, and overall in serious self-preservation mode. She wants HER school back, HER team back, and most of all, HER trophy to be in the spot reserved on her book shelf. Jamie is a PITA who took a giant gulp of hater-ade before the baseball season even started. He is a player, annoyed, jealous, and generally consumed with the idea that a girl might steal HIS trophy. The beauty of this book, as well as the beauty of Cozzo's writing, is that the characters you meet in the first few chapters are not the people you love by the end of the book. Throughout the book the reader learns, piece by piece, who Eve and Jamie truly are. If I could give any criticism about this book (though more so about society) it would be the general theme of "girls stuff" vs "boys stuff". While it's totally a reality in high school, it's also very telling of how our society still views what's okay for girls and what's okay for boys. Thankfully, Cozzo addresses this by allowing Eve to be comfortable with who she is, even when the opportunity to be "girly" arises, Eve still chooses to be herself...and really, that's all we want to see...girls being who they really are despite peer pressure, societal norms, and the idea that a boy might like them better in a low-cut shirt. Well written. Light, but not fluffy. Overall a fun read with a lot of heart.
AReadingRedSox 8 months ago
This made my baseball/YA-book loving heart so happy. I loved Eve and Jaime and their relationship and how they both changed throughout the novel. A super cute novel, perfect for fans of YA romance.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absoluley loved it!!!!!
kozbisa More than 1 year ago
Rating: 4.5 Stars When I first heard about this book, I was all over it because I am a fan of the TV show, Pitch, and I love Karole Cozzo books. Needless to say, I devoured this book, starting and finishing it in the same day. It was fun, heartwarming, compelling, and swoony. •Pro: Eve was a fabulous female. She was fierce, empowered, and passionate, and she went after what she wanted, but she wasn't just this hard, tough as nails woman. She had soft parts too, and I really liked seeing all those sides of her. •Pro: There was more to Jamie than I thought. His home life was not all rainbows and unicorns, and his family was struggling, but he didn't hold pity parties. He pitched in by having a job, doing the shopping, and trying to help with his sister when possible. He had his "Ace" persona, the player and life of the party, and then there was Jamie, who was saved for a select few, and who I was really fond of. •Con: There are a few loose ends, and though I did not feel they were major plot points, I would have liked to see these things tied up. •Pro: The ending was cute and sweet, and so appropriate for these two characters, BUT •Con: I felt like it was a little rushed, and I would have loved to have seen a little more of the "after". •Pro: The school merger premise was something I thought worked really well. It presented Eve and Jamie with many challenges, and created a lot of tension in the story. •Pro: Though I may not be athletic enough, I would love to be part of Eve's family. I adored her no-nonsense mom, who shot straight from the hip, and I thought their mother's day celebration was all sorts of wonderful. It was obvious how much Eve's family contributed to her success by just being supportive and present for her. •Pro: I loved that Eve may shared a super strong friendship with someone so different from herself. Her bestie was her polar opposite, but she was really good for Eve, because she made her examine situations from different perspectives. •Pro: I love me hate-to-love romances, and this one was super fun. It was great seeing the verbal sparring slowly turn from barbs to flirty banter, and as their attraction and affection for each other grew, we got to see more and more the real Eve and Jamie. •Pro: I really appreciated that Cozzo addressed some the shortcomings of being a female playing a boy's sport. I had never really considered the "after" in this situation. •Pro: I shipped these two. They had great chemistry, and were able to bring out the best parts of each other. Overall: A wonderful, swoony romance, which filled that Pitch-sized void in my heart.
THHernandez More than 1 year ago
My favorite Karole Cozzo book to date, and the title, THE GAME CAN’T LOVE YOU BACK, might be the most perfect title ever — it perfectly sums up the themes of the story. When Eve’s high school suffers a freak accident, she and the rest of her Bulldogs are forced across town to attend school with the rival Pirates. And the school rivalry is only the beginning of her issues. As the only girl in a family of boys, Eve’s mom told her if she wanted to play sports, she’d play with her brothers, because she didn’t have time to start carting a child off to girls’ sports as well. So Eve plays baseball, not softball. Problem is, the boys’ baseball team at her new school doesn’t want her anymore than she wants to be there, particularly rival pitcher, Jamie. Jamie is all smooth lines and cocky smiles, everything Eve despises. Eve glares far more than she smiles and has an attitude to match, everything Jamie despises. So of course these two enemies are fated to become something more. Plot The story is about Eve and Jamie on and off the mound. Their romance is the main focus, but with both of them vying for the Cy Young award at the end of the season, there’s no way things in the primary plot are going to go smoothly. With Eve’s stubborn need to prove she’s one of the boys and Jamie quiet determination to prove she’s more than that means there’s plenty of conflict. There’s also Jamie’s history as a player, Eve’s inexperience in that area, jealous girls who see Eve as a rival, and an unwillingness to allow their relationship to come under the scrutiny of their teammates, meaning their tender relationship is clandestine at best. Cozzo executes all of this with moments of laugh-out-loud humor and even a few that made me tear up. The Characters I absolutely adore Eve. She’s a refreshing departure from many female protagonists I’ve read lately. She’s complex and relateable, tough, determined, but with a vulnerable streak she wishes she didn’t have. I love her naivete with a solid streak of street smarts that makes her anything but typical. Jamie has a lot more baggage that drives him, but his walls crumble around Eve, making him vulnerable in his own ways. Eve is ultimately torn between what she wants on and off the field, and her growth comes when she figures out what matters most in life. The other characters are mostly minor players, a supporting cast that basically exist to prop up the main characters. They do their job without coming across as too flat. Top Five Things I Loved About THE GAME CAN’T LOVE YOU BACK 1. First kisses. One of the all-time best first kisses in the history of young adult fiction. 2. Eve. I loved her stubborn streak, her need to win, the way she doesn’t care about dresses or makeup. She was so easy to relate to. 3. Baseball. I’m a big fan of the game and the way it was woven into the story got me even more fired up to watch my sad Padres this season. 4. Witty banter. Eve and Jamie had some of the best lines in the book when they were baiting each other. The dialogue was one of my favorite parts of the book. 5. Jamie. He was perfectly flawed in all the best ways to make him a natural fit for Eve. Bottom Line A fantastic young adult sports romance with fabulous characters and sizzling dialogue. Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
2.5 stars? I really loved this premise and was fairly eager to read the book, yet I’m not entirely sure how I feel now that I’m done with it. Eve and Jamie are decent enough characters. I liked that they were driven and competitive and focused. I didn’t see the chemistry between them and never really got the shift in feelings. There are some great secondary characters {Scott and Marcella mostly} who felt very one dimensional. Plot wise, it was slow. I struggled really hard in the beginning because Eve and Jamie are so combative and so rude to each other. There were several scenes of team building or games and those disrupted the rhythm of the story as it felt like separate pieces of the story that were forced in. Overall, it had a lot of potential and something did keep me reading; however the execution seemed like a lot of opportunities were missed. **Huge thanks to Swoon Reads for providing the arc free of charge**