My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Thank you, Simon & Schuster, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
It’s never been her place to question him. It’s her job to trust him. And she did trust him.
This is my very first Siobhan Vivian book. If you look at its Goodreads page or Google the author, you might notice a trend: references to the Twitter war last November. I don’t want to be redundant, so all you have to know is that Siobhan’s way of supporting Sarah Dessen wasn’t exactly helpful. Nonetheless, since book reviewers have to be objective, I won’t let my opinion on the controversy affect my rating of this feminist novel. Those three stars are for the book, not the author.
We Are the Wildcats doesn’t have anything to do with High School Musical. It’s about six girls (Mel, Phoebe, Luci, Ali, Grace, and Kearson) who a part of a 20-member field hockey team called the Wildcats. They have a major game coming, so they need to prepare themselves physically and mentally. Luci, the team captain, organizes a meaningful evening event to motivate everyone, but their beloved coach gets in the way and changes the game plan. However, because of Coach’s interference, the girls eventually see his true, dark colors.
The book was indeed suspenseful. Coach was a complex character, and I wanted to understand why the girls, especially Mel, adored him. It was weird that regardless of his cold and brusque temperament, they believed that everything he did was for their good. Sometimes, the story made me uncomfortable because Mel’s feelings for Coach went beyond respect and admiration. For example, she treasured their conversations and felt special whenever he texted her. Yes, their texts weren’t romantic, but it was apparent that Coach was pulling Mel’s strings.
The other girls weren’t infatuated with Coach, but they all wanted to please him through their athletic performance. It came to the point that I felt sorry for the Wildcats. Were they just too innocent or ignorant to realize his malicious power over them? For most of the book, Coach was an excellent manipulator and succeeded in making them feel indebted to him. So when things began to unravel, I was excited to see the girls kick his ass.
The was supposed to cover only 24 hours. I expected a very fast-paced plot, but I found an intermittent one instead. There were too many perspectives to follow, and all of them had flashbacks to give their relationships with Coach some context. Unfortunately, I only cared about a few of them and was tempted to skip particular chapters.
Among the six POVs, I enjoyed Ali’s the most. She was one of the two Asians on the team and had fascinating interactions with her Korean family. Grace (Wildcat #5) also had a cool big brother, and I loved their shared screentime. Finally, Phoebe (Wildcat #2) had one of the most significant struggles. Her ACL was torn, but she refused to let that get in the way of her dreams.
The most notable aspect of this book was its depiction of female friendship. In spite of their differences and competitive environment, the protagonists rarely had petty arguments. Coach tried to break their faith in each other with manipulative tactics but failed as a result of their tenacity and loyalty. Still, several side characters were perfect examples of girl hate, resenting Grace and Kearson out of pathetic envy. Perhaps balance was achieved that way? Not all girls in the world are benevolent.
Overall, We Are the Wildcats shows how girls can break free from the chains of toxic masculinity. It will make you curious, wary, and a little happy. I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the book, but I would recommend it to anyone looking for something sporty and enlightening to read.