REVIEW: TROPHY SON By Douglas Brunt

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Published May 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Private lessons. Professional coaches. Specialized camps for sports, math, music, and other fields. Today’s children are pushed to achieve excellence—or else.  Trophy Son, tells the story of a tennis prodigy, from young childhood to the finals of the US Open, Wimbledon, and other tournaments around the world.

Growing up in the wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia, Anton Stratis is groomed to be one thing only: the #1 tennis player in the world. Trained relentlessly by his obsessive father, a former athlete who plans every minute of his son’s life, Anton both aspires to greatness and resents its all-consuming demands. Lonely and isolated—removed from school and socialization to focus on tennis—Anton explodes from nowhere onto the professional scene and soon becomes one of the top-ranked players in the world, with a coach, a trainer, and an entourage.

But as Anton struggles to find a balance between stardom and family, he begins to make compromises—first with himself, then with his health, and finally with the rules of tennis, a mix that will threaten to destroy everything he has worked for.
Trophy Son offers an inside look at the dangers of extraordinary pressure to achieve, whether in sports or any field, through the eyes of a young man defying his parents’ ambitions as he seeks a life of his own.

******

This book came along at the perfect time as I wanted and needed a break from the mystery/thriller genre after being so disappointed in 3 of my recent reads. To say I’m surprised I liked this as much as I did would be an understatement because I actually really loved this book! I read it in 2 sittings only because I read late into the night when I started it and finally had to go to sleep. I think some people may read the blurb and disregard this book because they don’t like tennis or sports etc. but it’s really about so much more than that although tennis does play prominently in the storyline.

At its core this is a very unique coming of age story told from the first person perspective of Anton who’s narrating the story from some point in the future. I thought this was a brilliant narrative technique that enables the reader to get to know Anton through many ages of his life but with the wisdom of his older self highlighting the way. This narrative structure can be tricky to pull off but Anton was such a likable character who I immediately connected with…I mean how could you not feel for a little nine year old kid who’s being made to spend HOURS in the ninety degree heat doing tennis drill after tennis drill with his dad yelling at and berating him?? As a parent, I felt such a range of emotions for Anton who was missing out on being a kid; he had no friends, his social skills were lacking, and his loneliness was so deep and ingrained it really broke my heart. And don’t get me started on my feelings about his dad and mom. I have nothing nice to say about their characters.  Anton’s saving grace in his family was his brother Panos who, despite being a secondary character, was very multidimensional and my second favorite character after Anton. As you can see, the author did a wonderful job creating characters I became thoroughly invested in and a storyline I just couldn’t stop reading until I found out how it all turned out for Anton. Needless to say, I was rooting for him to defy his father, find his own way in the world and possibly even experience a sliver of happiness.

A major reason I think this book will resonate with so many people is because we’re seeing this specialization of youth sports and extreme focus on achieving excellence in sports and academics with young children play out everywhere in our society these days. Tiger Wood’s story is just one recent example. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own community time and time again, and quite frankly it’s sad.

In the end, you don’t have to love tennis to enjoy this book although I really like the game – playing and watching – so I found the tennis matches (as well as the whole story) to be riveting. Douglas Brunt writes in a literary way that’s concise and well-paced, yet still manages to be compelling and almost conversational in its tone…can you tell this is 5 star read for me?! If you’re in the mood for something a little different I think Trophy Son may be just what you’re looking for.

Many thanks to Meriah Murphy at St. Martin’s Press for inviting me to read this via Netgalley. I’m happy to provide an honest review

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27 thoughts on “REVIEW: TROPHY SON By Douglas Brunt

  1. I’m so glad you loved Trophy Son! And I felt the same way you did about it…I am a tennis fan, but thought it would appeal to those who aren’t also. And his tone was really conversational..that’s a great term for it! Loved how he writes in a completely entertaining, yet not overly literary way.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I really loved this one Sarah…I think it might even make one of my top 10 reads and it’s only June:) I love it when a book completely surprises me and this author created a character I was just so invested in. I need to check out his other books for sure!

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  2. Between you and Sarah, I think I need to work Trophy Son in very soon. I tend to resist “sports” books, but then often end up liking them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not sure how I feel about coming-of-age stories, sometimes I really like them, other times not so much – I’ll have a think about adding this one, your review is swaying me!

    Fun fact: I used to have tennis lessons when I was younger and my tennis coach only had one hand – I was young and fascinated that he could throw the ball and hit it all using one hand. I keep copying him and he kept telling me ‘Janel, you’ve got two hand, use them both, and you might hit the serve’ 😂 I suck at tennis

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, love that tennis story, of course as a kid it makes perfect sense you’d try to copy him..that would’ve been interesting to watch😂 If you need a genre change this might be just the book for you…I’m currently in a coming of age mood and when they’re done well I think they’re great types of stories

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting concept for a novel – as you’ve said, you hear about this kind of thing, but I imagine that it works really well as a fictional novel. Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review! And you’ve made me even more enthusiastic to read it now. 🙂 I like the idea of it being told by the older version of Anton – I prefer that to getting an entirely child’s-eye view of things. Some parents really should be banned – quite often when I’m watching tennis, especially women’s tennis, I must say, I get furious at the fathers who seem to bully their daughters from the coaches’ box. I’m sure it happens just as much with boys at a younger age, though by the time they become professionals they seem to go for more professional coaches too…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! There was something about the author’s writing style and his ability to get me to love the main character Anton that really made me love this book. I would love to chat with you about it if you get a chance to read it:)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m reading “Trophy Son” right now and very much enjoying it. I didn’t read your review so I won’t be influenced. I’m hoping to be healthy enough soon so I can begin to review myself. Then I can read yours. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying it Martie, it’s really surprisingly good imo. I’m sorry you haven’t been healthy enough to review, take care of yourself and hopefully you’ll be able to review soon. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of Trophy Son

      Liked by 1 person

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