Sapphic Basketball Romance “How You Get the Girl” Is a Slam Dunk

If there’s one type of book I will immediately pick up, it’s a sapphic romance with a Taylor-Swift-related title, so I knew I’d be reading Anita Kelly’s How You Get the Girl from the first moment I heard about it.

How You Get the Girl

How You Get the Girl follows Julie Parker, a former high school basketball player who now coaches the girls’ basketball team, and Elle Cochrane, former University of Tennessee basketball star turned failed WNBA player. Elle was Julie’s idol and “celebrity” crush growing up, so when Elle shows up as the foster parent of a new member of the team, she turns Julie’s life upside down.

Julie knows that she has a massive crush on Elle, but she’s still figuring out her sexuality — she knows a hot lady basketball player and also Manny Jacinto get her hot under the collar, but what’s that called? Plus, she’s never really dated or been physically intimate with anyone yet, regardless of gender. Whereas Julie is still figuring out different aspects of her sexuality, Elle is a secure lesbian with relationships under her belt, even though she’s not been in one since breaking up with her ex and former teammate. Julie and Elle devise a plan to “practice” dating, and well, you know how well that goes. As someone who came out in adulthood and thus had less sexual experience than some of my female partners, I could relate to Julie’s fears of not being good enough or doing things correctly.

Julie also falls on the ace spectrum, an experience I’ve not seen represented often in sapphic romance. She lacks sexual experience, but she lacks romantic experience too  — not because she doesn’t want to date, but because she hadn’t yet anyone she likes enough to want to date. Julie’s feelings are presented as a part of the character, and no one in her life makes it out to be much of an issue.

As the foster parent for her cousin’s teenage daughter Vanessa, Elle puts Vanessa on the basketball team to give her an after school activity, and their mutual interest in Vanessa’s well-being becomes a bonding point. Julie hangs out with Vanessa outside of school while Elle is at foster parent classes, giving Vanessa a neutral party to share her feelings with. In turn, Elle starts attending basketball practices to keep an eye on Vanessa, which leads to Julie asking her to be the team’s assistant coach. Being forced to spend time together, both on and off the court, gives them time to create a deeper bond.

Sports romances are something I’ve slowly been getting into because I’m not really a sports person, but the balance of basketball and regular life in How You Get the Girl was perfect for my level of interest. I do happen to think basketball is definitely the sexiest and most romantic sport — there’s so much tension, and the way basketball players have to dance around each other on a court is almost choreographed. Unlike other sports, you need to feel basketball in your body, and there’s something really grounding about that. Even though Elle hasn’t played basketball in eight years, it’s in her body. You can’t make something your life and then expect it to just go away.

Elle’s experience of retiring from and then actively shunning the sport she loved is a familiar trope, but I still loved how she was brought out of it through this narrative. I’m a sucker for stories where a character has turned their back on something they once loved and gets sucked back into it by a group of kids. It’s a solid trope, and I fall for it every single time, I promise. Kelly could’ve also followed the boring trope of having Julie push Elle back onto the court more aggressively, but instead Julie gives Elle the space she needs to find her way back on her own terms, which made the story so much sweeter. It was a joy to watch Elle fall back in love with the sport through Julie and the girls on the team.

It’s not just Elle’s relationship with Julie and the rest of the Bobcats that deepens through returning to basketball, but also her friendship with her best friend Mra, a former teammate. I loved their friendship so much, and how eager Mara is to remind Elle of how basketball shaped a fundamental part of her and her life. In fact, I loved all of the best friend characters in How You Get the Girl, and good best friend characters are imperative to stories like these, providing necessary insight into the main characters. Elle has Mara, and Julie has her sibling London, their partner Dahlia (who you’ll recognize if you’ve read Kelly’s Love and Other Disasters) and Ben (who is one of the main characters of Kelly’s Something Wild & Wonderful). They all add such fun to the story, and really give the main characters another layer.

Speaking of layers… Anita Kelly writes extremely hot sex scenes! I needed a minute after reading them! They’re a master with language and scene-setting, sparing no detail while avoiding anything gratuitous. Because Elle and Julie are at two different experience levels sexually, there is care taken with them, but that doesn’t sacrifice heat. After the book’s final sex scene, I needed to do a lap around my apartment. Consent and care are really sexy folks!

Finally, the way Kelly writes about Elle’s depression, which has a big impact on her relationship with Julie, is handled with immense care.

How You Get the Girl is a wonderful book, and chock full of fun, queer characters. It also has a huge amount of heart and care, which I genuinely enjoyed. Come for the basketball adjacent romance, stay for the spicy scenes. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy How You Get The Girl at Bookshop.

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 114 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. I am number 17 on my library’s waitlist! I just skimmed the review because I like to be surprised but will come back after I read the book.

    I enjoyed the first two books in this series (I’m bad with titles but book 1 = f/nb cooking competition show, book 2 = m/m through hiking) and I’ve been looking forward to this one.

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