Book Review: Dangerous Play by Emma Kress

Hey friends! Today I’m comin’ at ya with a review of “Dangerous Play” by Emma Kress–out today (Aug. 3rd)!

An eARC was provided to me by Macmillan. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Read on to check out my review and learn more about the book and author.


Cover Design for Dangerous Play: Aurora Parlagreco
Cover Art for Dangerous Play: Laura Callaghan

A fierce team of girls takes back the night in this propulsive, electrifying, and high-stakes YA debut from Emma Kress

Zoe Alamandar has one goal: win the State Field Hockey Championships and earn a scholarship that will get her the hell out of Central New York. She and her co-captain Ava Cervantes have assembled a fierce team of dedicated girls who will work hard and play by the rules.

But after Zoe is sexually assaulted at a party, she finds a new goal: make sure no girl feels unsafe again. Zoe and her teammates decide to stop playing by the rules and take justice into their own hands. Soon, their suburban town has a team of superheroes meting out punishments, but one night of vigilantism may cost Zoe her team, the championship, her scholarship, and her future.

Perfect for fans who loved the female friendships of Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie and the bite of Courtney Summer’s Sadie.

My Thoughts

“Dangerous Play” by Emma Kress was one of those books that I’m glad to have read and I know I’ll think about for a long time coming.

This is the second sports book I’ve read this year, and I think they may be becoming one of my favorite things to read. And while the sports aspect is a big part of this book, it’s definitely not the main focus. “Dangerous Play” might be one of the best #MeToo contemporary YA fiction books I’ve read.

There are so many things I loved about this book. First and foremost, the sisterhood showcased between Zoe, our main character, and her field hockey teammates, was wonderful. In fact, I loved that this book was all about women helping women, girls helping girls, and instead of pitting them against each other, it was all focused on them empowering one another. The only time we ever see any competition, is on the field during a field hockey game.

I also appreciated the way sexual assault was approached and talked about in the many and varying ways it happens. Emma Kress did a wonderful job of driving home that fact that there is no singular definition of sexual assault. I think many teens and even adults who pick up “Dangerous Play,” who are maybe still learning that or who need to hear that, will find it helpful and comforting.

Something I also really appreciated was the many other subjects touched on throughout the story, not just sexual assault. Double standards between the girls and boys at the school, internalized misogyny, white privilege, intersectional feminism, the foster system, disability, and victim blaming, to name a few.

Next to the many important issues and topics “Dangerous Play” focuses on and discusses, it’s also just a really good story at its heart. It’s fast paced, emotional, high-stakes, frustrating, funny, and empowering. I read through it in one sitting because I had to know how things were going to play out. I loved getting to learn about the dynamic Zoe had with her friends and family, and how those relationships changed and got stronger over time. The entire “taking back the night” vigilantism was iconic. And of course the sports scenes were action-packed and easy to understand for a non-sports person.

I think the only thing that threw me off once or twice in the book, which is such a small thing, but worth mentioning because it’s kinda funny, is the whole “fockey” thing. Now, I know no field hockey players–we didn’t even have a field hockey team at my high school or even my college, so I have no clue if this is a real thing or not. But every time I read it, or any iteration of it (fock, absofockinglutely, etc.), I had to pause for just a second. It was the tiniest bit cringe. I’M SORRY.

All in all though, I loved “Dangerous Play.” I think it’s an important book that many people will find comfort in.

★★★★☆ = Excellent.

About Emma Kress

Photo Credit: Erin Summerill

Emma Kress (she/her) is a long-time teacher. She taught high-school English in Central New York and was a finalist for NY State Teacher of the Year. She is a graduate of Vassar College, Columbia University’s Teachers College, and the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Earlier in her career, Emma worked at the Victim Services Agency in NYC and as a peer counselor facilitating workshops for teens on sexual assault. She lives with her family in Saratoga Springs, NY. Dangerous Play is her debut novel.

Published by Selina Falcon

Reader. Writer. Live music addict.

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