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Playing for Keeps

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From the author of Some Girls Do comes another heartfelt YA sapphic romance—starring a baseball pitcher and a student umpire who are definitely not supposed to fall for one another.

“Sapphic sports romance perfection. Swoony and romantic, but unafraid to tackle grief, family expectations, and fighting for your dreams, this is a home run of a book.” —Rachael Lippincott, coauthor of the #1 New York Times Bestsellers Five Feet Apart and She Gets the Girl

June is the star pitcher of her elite club baseball team—with an ego to match—and she's a shoo-in to be recruited at the college level, like her parents have always envisioned. That is, if she can play through an overuse injury that has recently gone from bad to worse.

Ivy isn't just reffing to pay off her athletic fees or make some extra cash on the side. She wants to someday officiate at the professional level, even if her parents would rather she go to college instead. 

The first time they cross paths, Ivy throws June out of a game for grandstanding. Still, they quickly grow from enemies to begrudging friends . . . and then something more. But the rules state that players and umpires are prohibited from dating.

As June's shoulder worsens, and a rival discovers the girls' secret and threatens to expose them, everything the two have worked so hard for is at risk. Now both must choose: follow their dreams . . . or follow their hearts?
CHAPTER ONE

Ivy

It's an unreasonably hot August day, but I stand here anyway-focused, determined . . . and sweating my ass off in my long black pants and a bright yellow shirt that looks good on exactly no one. I both look and feel like a glorified, overheating bumblebee.

At least my whistle is cool.

There's not too much time to dwell on things as the players thunder down the field around me, rushing this way and that, chasing the black-and-white ball down to the goal. I watch them carefully while I run through the rules in my head. I'm always watching for a handball, a foul, or a player inching their way offside. I take this game seriously-unlike some of my coworkers.

As if on cue, one of the players, #10, a Messi in the making, comes careening down the side, capturing the ball out of the air with one of the best first touches I've ever seen. He dribbles a few steps, waiting for the defenders to show their hands, and then, with a little shimmy, he sends the ball flying over their heads in a perfect rainbow before darting around them to continue his attempted path to victory. I chase after, always keeping the players in my sight. With the ref shortage, I'm usually the only one officiating games, and this one is no different.

Number 10 is fast, but the defenders are faster and angrier-no one likes a show-off, especially when they're on the opposing team. They chase him down, yanking his jersey back just as he starts to shoot, and then shove him into the turf. It's a dirty foul inside the box, and I rip the yellow card out of my pocket as I blow my whistle. I hate calling plays like this, but these kids left me no choice. That play wasn't just dirty; it was dangerous.

The ball rolls free from the tangle of players currently shouting at each other on the turf, and the goalie scoops it up. I blow my whistle hard again and separate the teams, who are two seconds away from an all-out brawl, and ignore the way half the crowd stands up and screams at me that it was an accident, while the other half applauds me. Calling a PK, or a penalty kick, in a tied game like this with less than a minute on the clock is as close as you can come to calling it. But rules are rules, and it's my duty-and my honor if I'm getting cheesy about it-to uphold that. If you don't want the penalty, don't do the foul.

I take the ball from the goalie, set it up right on the line, and then nod toward #10. "On my whistle," I say, and jog backward to where I can see the entire field of play. A few players from the defending team try to make a wall and block things-they always do even when they know it's not allowed-but I wave them off. Shots like this come down to two people only, player and goalie, and everyone knows it.

I blow my whistle again, loud and shrill, breaking the silence that's wrapped around us, as players and spectators alike pray for their desired team to win. Number 10 lowers his hand and jogs into a perfect kick that sends the ball sailing into the upper right-hand corner of the net. Unstoppable.

The goalie jumps anyway, slamming into the ground with a force that has to hurt, while #10's team crowds around him in a sea of purple jerseys. I blow the whistle three times, letting everyone know we're at time: game over, purple team won. And then I race over to the table between fields where I stashed my bag.

It's usually best, in my experience, for officials to get out of Dodge after a call like that. Right or not, in a high-intensity game, there are a lot of feelings on the line.

"Hey, Ref," a man yells, jogging toward me.

I sling my backpack over my shoulder, pretending I don't hear him, and then speed walk down the center of the field. I make a point to wave to Aiden, who is currently reffing a game of his own-even though we aren't really friends-just so the guy chasing me knows that someone else has eyes on us. Aiden glances behind me and waves back with a frown.

Great. Now he's going to have to keep an eye on me and ref his game. I hate it. He shouldn't have to do that. People should respect us, respect what we do. There wouldn't be games without us-which they should know since so many are getting canceled or rescheduled. A lot of people have quit the job, tired of dealing with reckless players and overzealous spectators.

The man currently weaving between soccer fields and yelling at me to stop running isn't the first angry soccer fan I've dealt with, but it never gets any more fun . . . or any less scary. People are unpredictable.

"Hey," he says again, as I reach the parking lot. I realize too late that leaving the area where there were tons of witnesses to head to the parking lot where I'm a lot more isolated was a terrible idea. Shit.

Well, now that flight's clearly out, I guess fight it is. I turn to meet him head-on. I've been screamed at before. I've had people spit on me, yell at me. One even tried to slap me. I've been called every derogatory name in the book. I've been told women shouldn't officiate. Just last week I was called a "dumb bitch" for the dozenth time. I handled it then, and I'll handle it now. And, most importantly, rule number one, I'll never let them see me cry. No matter what.

"You know there's a ref shortage, right?" I say, lifting my chin to meet his eyes. "So maybe chasing one down to scream at them in the parking lot isn't the best idea if you want to keep having games here. I know U8 soccer is so brutal," I deadpan, "but come on, man. They're second graders. It's not that deep."

Did I mention today's game was with literal children? They don't even have all their adult teeth yet, but their parents are convinced every one of them is god's gift to the sport. Half of them won't even make it past rec, but that's none of my business.

"I wasn't chasing you," the man says, staring at me, but then my words must register because his annoyed face falls. "Oh, no. I guess I kind of was, but it's not what you think!"

I raise my eyebrows. Having an angry parent rethink their position is definitely a first for me.

"Here," he says, and holds out my yellow card. "You dropped this on the field when you were breaking up the argument. I wanted to give it back in case they charge you to replace them. We're not all monsters on the sidelines, you know."

I take it from him, bewildered, just as Aiden comes jogging up. His game must have ended right after mine. I hope I didn't distract him too badly. "Everything okay?" he asks, looking between me and the man. The man nods at him and then heads back to where his kid is waiting. "What happened?" Aiden asks as soon as we're alone.

"Weirdly, nothing," I say, wiping the sweat off my forehead. "I dropped one of my cards, and he just wanted to give it back. When he started chasing me, I guess I just freaked."

"Lucky," Aiden says. "I got a can of Gatorade thrown at me just before halftime for calling a foul on a kid who slide-tackled another kid and then bit him. The mom was like, 'How is that a foul?' and I was like, 'Get your rabid kid out of here.' First time I ever red-carded a six-year-old. Man, these people think it's the World Cup, but these kids are barely potty-trained."

I laugh. I can't help it; this job is too much sometimes.

Becoming a pro ref is my biggest dream, sure, but even I'm willing to acknowledge that it can get a little dicey sometimes.

I know it sounds weird. Most people dream of being a professional athlete or a rock star or an astronaut or something. But a few years back, after some extenuating circumstances, I realized I wanted to go pro in a different way. I wanted to be a ref.

I want to follow in Sarah Thomas's NFL footsteps. She's incredible: the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first woman to officiate a college bowl game, and if that wasn't wild enough, the first woman to ever be hired as an official in the NFL. Cherry on top of the sundae? In 2021, she went on to become the first woman to ever officiate in a Super Bowl-2021! We're not talking about the Dark Ages here. Sarah is kicking down doors and breaking through ceilings that up until embarrassingly recently seemed to be made of solid steel.

I may have a picture of her on my wall. Or five. Mia, my best friend, thinks I have a crush, but it's not that. Or at least it's not just that.

A lot of my friends do this as a part-time job or to work off some of their club dues or field rental fees for their own sports, but not me. This is what I want from life. Sure, refs deal with a lot of hate. We're often accused of favoring one team or the other, even if that's obviously not true. But our work is important. We keep it fair, we keep it moving, and we keep it as safe as we can.

The people doing it on a national stage, like Sarah Thomas or Carl Cheffers, who work during the most-watched televised sporting events, are badasses on a whole other level. The shit they have to deal with, the pressure they're under . . . I can't even imagine. Look at me-I consider myself great under pressure, yet I'm one step away from crumbling under the weight of the college stress my mom is putting on me. Let's just say, my parents don't fully understand the whole I want to be a ref thing and are suggesting-nay, demanding-that I come up with a backup plan.

It's gotten so bad that the other day at dinner, I almost yellow-carded my mom. Me and her . . . it's complicated. She just doesn't get it-get me-at all. She's constantly shoving colleges down my throat and riding me about "wasting" my potential. Which is bullshit because I have every intention of meeting what I consider my potential. She just doesn't agree with what that looks like.

She's one of those people who buy into the whole those who can't, ref idea. She doesn't see it as "a viable path to success." The fact that I gave up being the one kicking the ball to be the one standing on the sidelines drives her up a wall. "Think of the scholarships you're missing out on" is a constant refrain, even though god knows there's not tons of money in college soccer.

The truth is, though, I actually was really good at the sport when I was younger. I'm no Rapinoe or anything, and I don't know that scholarships would have been in my future even if I hadn't quit, but I was the best defender we had in the local club, and I can juggle over a thousand times without dropping the ball. It just wasn't for me, especially after my brother . . .

Whatever. Needless to say, I realized pretty quickly that my priorities had changed. When the coach would ask me to study film, instead of watching plays and looking for where I could improve as a player, I'd find myself focusing on the refs, what they were doing, what they were seeing, if the lineman made the right call or the wrong call, analyzing what call I would make in that situation or how to defuse tensions by being fair. Pretty soon I hung up the cleats and grabbed my flags.

I started working for the same club I used to play for. First, I was just in charge of running scoreboards at big games, but Harry, the owner of this place, said he saw something in me. He asked me what I wanted to do-actually asked me and listened-and before I knew it, I was a lineman for youth soccer. Now I'm generally the one in the thick of it, standing in the center of the field getting in the mix. It's exhilarating and exciting in a way playing just isn't to me anymore. I've worked my way up from having to take extra shifts at the snack bar to being scheduled nonstop on the field. When we're short, Harry trusts me to be the one to run the game alone. It feels good. It feels like I'm making a difference. It feels like finally I can control something in my life. My mom accused me of hiding out on the fields, but the truth is I thrived at a time when the rest of my family was falling apart. I found my calling.

Down came the Neymar and Alex Morgan posters, and up went my queen, Sarah Thomas. Okay, sure, so they don't actually have posters made of her, but I ripped some images from newspapers and the internet and had them blown up and printed on card stock. Close enough.

But it's a very long road from here to her.

Refs go through years of training, starting out in little kids' games, like I am, progressing into the high school level and varsity if you get lucky. On to juco and then working your way through the college rank, and then, if you're really lucky and you work extremely hard, you go pro.

I get my mom's concern, and I get why some of my friends think I'm bananas for this. A lot of people think this is just a shit job for retirees or kids looking for a buck, but it's not. My boss, he gets flown all over the country to ref major competitions, mostly soccer showcases. He's constantly sought after and has built a reputation for being fair and knowledgeable. Every fancy tournament that parents are paying thousands for their kid to attend wouldn't happen without people like Harry and me.

My phone buzzes in my hand. Speak of the devil, he's calling me now.

"Hi, Harry," I say cheerfully. Aiden's eyebrows scrunch up, and he leans closer nosily.
Praise for Playing for Keeps:

"This sweet romance is a home run." —People Magazine

"Charming . . . Without sacrificing the banter or sincerity that make up this winning romance, Dugan skillfully crafts parallel story lines in which the weight of loss and pressure to succeed haunt the protagonists throughout their everyday lives as they work toward their own futures." —Publishers Weekly

"[A] voice-driven, absorbing dual narrative . . . Ivy’s and June’s flawed coping strategies clash with their adorable budding romance, propelling them toward gut-wrenching heartbreak and terrifying, necessary, affirming new choices . . . A page-turner that handles heavy topics with wisdom." —Kirkus Reviews

“Playing for Keeps is sapphic sports romance perfection. Swoony and romantic, but unafraid to tackle grief, family expectations, and fighting for your dreams, this is a home run of a book.” —Rachael Lippincott, coauthor of the #1 New York Times Bestsellers Five Feet Apart and She Gets the Girl
© Amber Hooper
Jennifer Dugan is a writer, a geek, and a romantic who writes the kinds of stories she wishes she’d had growing up. She’s the author of the graphic novel Coven, as well as the young adult novels Playing For KeepsThe Last Girls Standing, Melt With YouSome Girls DoVerona Comics, and Hot Dog Girl, which was called “a great, fizzy rom-com” by Entertainment Weekly and “one of the best reads of the year, hands down” by Paste magazine. She lives in upstate New York with her family, their dog, a strange kitten who enjoys wearing sweaters, and an evil cat who is no doubt planning to take over the world. You can visit Jennifer at JLDugan.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @JL_Dugan. View titles by Jennifer Dugan

About

From the author of Some Girls Do comes another heartfelt YA sapphic romance—starring a baseball pitcher and a student umpire who are definitely not supposed to fall for one another.

“Sapphic sports romance perfection. Swoony and romantic, but unafraid to tackle grief, family expectations, and fighting for your dreams, this is a home run of a book.” —Rachael Lippincott, coauthor of the #1 New York Times Bestsellers Five Feet Apart and She Gets the Girl

June is the star pitcher of her elite club baseball team—with an ego to match—and she's a shoo-in to be recruited at the college level, like her parents have always envisioned. That is, if she can play through an overuse injury that has recently gone from bad to worse.

Ivy isn't just reffing to pay off her athletic fees or make some extra cash on the side. She wants to someday officiate at the professional level, even if her parents would rather she go to college instead. 

The first time they cross paths, Ivy throws June out of a game for grandstanding. Still, they quickly grow from enemies to begrudging friends . . . and then something more. But the rules state that players and umpires are prohibited from dating.

As June's shoulder worsens, and a rival discovers the girls' secret and threatens to expose them, everything the two have worked so hard for is at risk. Now both must choose: follow their dreams . . . or follow their hearts?

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

Ivy

It's an unreasonably hot August day, but I stand here anyway-focused, determined . . . and sweating my ass off in my long black pants and a bright yellow shirt that looks good on exactly no one. I both look and feel like a glorified, overheating bumblebee.

At least my whistle is cool.

There's not too much time to dwell on things as the players thunder down the field around me, rushing this way and that, chasing the black-and-white ball down to the goal. I watch them carefully while I run through the rules in my head. I'm always watching for a handball, a foul, or a player inching their way offside. I take this game seriously-unlike some of my coworkers.

As if on cue, one of the players, #10, a Messi in the making, comes careening down the side, capturing the ball out of the air with one of the best first touches I've ever seen. He dribbles a few steps, waiting for the defenders to show their hands, and then, with a little shimmy, he sends the ball flying over their heads in a perfect rainbow before darting around them to continue his attempted path to victory. I chase after, always keeping the players in my sight. With the ref shortage, I'm usually the only one officiating games, and this one is no different.

Number 10 is fast, but the defenders are faster and angrier-no one likes a show-off, especially when they're on the opposing team. They chase him down, yanking his jersey back just as he starts to shoot, and then shove him into the turf. It's a dirty foul inside the box, and I rip the yellow card out of my pocket as I blow my whistle. I hate calling plays like this, but these kids left me no choice. That play wasn't just dirty; it was dangerous.

The ball rolls free from the tangle of players currently shouting at each other on the turf, and the goalie scoops it up. I blow my whistle hard again and separate the teams, who are two seconds away from an all-out brawl, and ignore the way half the crowd stands up and screams at me that it was an accident, while the other half applauds me. Calling a PK, or a penalty kick, in a tied game like this with less than a minute on the clock is as close as you can come to calling it. But rules are rules, and it's my duty-and my honor if I'm getting cheesy about it-to uphold that. If you don't want the penalty, don't do the foul.

I take the ball from the goalie, set it up right on the line, and then nod toward #10. "On my whistle," I say, and jog backward to where I can see the entire field of play. A few players from the defending team try to make a wall and block things-they always do even when they know it's not allowed-but I wave them off. Shots like this come down to two people only, player and goalie, and everyone knows it.

I blow my whistle again, loud and shrill, breaking the silence that's wrapped around us, as players and spectators alike pray for their desired team to win. Number 10 lowers his hand and jogs into a perfect kick that sends the ball sailing into the upper right-hand corner of the net. Unstoppable.

The goalie jumps anyway, slamming into the ground with a force that has to hurt, while #10's team crowds around him in a sea of purple jerseys. I blow the whistle three times, letting everyone know we're at time: game over, purple team won. And then I race over to the table between fields where I stashed my bag.

It's usually best, in my experience, for officials to get out of Dodge after a call like that. Right or not, in a high-intensity game, there are a lot of feelings on the line.

"Hey, Ref," a man yells, jogging toward me.

I sling my backpack over my shoulder, pretending I don't hear him, and then speed walk down the center of the field. I make a point to wave to Aiden, who is currently reffing a game of his own-even though we aren't really friends-just so the guy chasing me knows that someone else has eyes on us. Aiden glances behind me and waves back with a frown.

Great. Now he's going to have to keep an eye on me and ref his game. I hate it. He shouldn't have to do that. People should respect us, respect what we do. There wouldn't be games without us-which they should know since so many are getting canceled or rescheduled. A lot of people have quit the job, tired of dealing with reckless players and overzealous spectators.

The man currently weaving between soccer fields and yelling at me to stop running isn't the first angry soccer fan I've dealt with, but it never gets any more fun . . . or any less scary. People are unpredictable.

"Hey," he says again, as I reach the parking lot. I realize too late that leaving the area where there were tons of witnesses to head to the parking lot where I'm a lot more isolated was a terrible idea. Shit.

Well, now that flight's clearly out, I guess fight it is. I turn to meet him head-on. I've been screamed at before. I've had people spit on me, yell at me. One even tried to slap me. I've been called every derogatory name in the book. I've been told women shouldn't officiate. Just last week I was called a "dumb bitch" for the dozenth time. I handled it then, and I'll handle it now. And, most importantly, rule number one, I'll never let them see me cry. No matter what.

"You know there's a ref shortage, right?" I say, lifting my chin to meet his eyes. "So maybe chasing one down to scream at them in the parking lot isn't the best idea if you want to keep having games here. I know U8 soccer is so brutal," I deadpan, "but come on, man. They're second graders. It's not that deep."

Did I mention today's game was with literal children? They don't even have all their adult teeth yet, but their parents are convinced every one of them is god's gift to the sport. Half of them won't even make it past rec, but that's none of my business.

"I wasn't chasing you," the man says, staring at me, but then my words must register because his annoyed face falls. "Oh, no. I guess I kind of was, but it's not what you think!"

I raise my eyebrows. Having an angry parent rethink their position is definitely a first for me.

"Here," he says, and holds out my yellow card. "You dropped this on the field when you were breaking up the argument. I wanted to give it back in case they charge you to replace them. We're not all monsters on the sidelines, you know."

I take it from him, bewildered, just as Aiden comes jogging up. His game must have ended right after mine. I hope I didn't distract him too badly. "Everything okay?" he asks, looking between me and the man. The man nods at him and then heads back to where his kid is waiting. "What happened?" Aiden asks as soon as we're alone.

"Weirdly, nothing," I say, wiping the sweat off my forehead. "I dropped one of my cards, and he just wanted to give it back. When he started chasing me, I guess I just freaked."

"Lucky," Aiden says. "I got a can of Gatorade thrown at me just before halftime for calling a foul on a kid who slide-tackled another kid and then bit him. The mom was like, 'How is that a foul?' and I was like, 'Get your rabid kid out of here.' First time I ever red-carded a six-year-old. Man, these people think it's the World Cup, but these kids are barely potty-trained."

I laugh. I can't help it; this job is too much sometimes.

Becoming a pro ref is my biggest dream, sure, but even I'm willing to acknowledge that it can get a little dicey sometimes.

I know it sounds weird. Most people dream of being a professional athlete or a rock star or an astronaut or something. But a few years back, after some extenuating circumstances, I realized I wanted to go pro in a different way. I wanted to be a ref.

I want to follow in Sarah Thomas's NFL footsteps. She's incredible: the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first woman to officiate a college bowl game, and if that wasn't wild enough, the first woman to ever be hired as an official in the NFL. Cherry on top of the sundae? In 2021, she went on to become the first woman to ever officiate in a Super Bowl-2021! We're not talking about the Dark Ages here. Sarah is kicking down doors and breaking through ceilings that up until embarrassingly recently seemed to be made of solid steel.

I may have a picture of her on my wall. Or five. Mia, my best friend, thinks I have a crush, but it's not that. Or at least it's not just that.

A lot of my friends do this as a part-time job or to work off some of their club dues or field rental fees for their own sports, but not me. This is what I want from life. Sure, refs deal with a lot of hate. We're often accused of favoring one team or the other, even if that's obviously not true. But our work is important. We keep it fair, we keep it moving, and we keep it as safe as we can.

The people doing it on a national stage, like Sarah Thomas or Carl Cheffers, who work during the most-watched televised sporting events, are badasses on a whole other level. The shit they have to deal with, the pressure they're under . . . I can't even imagine. Look at me-I consider myself great under pressure, yet I'm one step away from crumbling under the weight of the college stress my mom is putting on me. Let's just say, my parents don't fully understand the whole I want to be a ref thing and are suggesting-nay, demanding-that I come up with a backup plan.

It's gotten so bad that the other day at dinner, I almost yellow-carded my mom. Me and her . . . it's complicated. She just doesn't get it-get me-at all. She's constantly shoving colleges down my throat and riding me about "wasting" my potential. Which is bullshit because I have every intention of meeting what I consider my potential. She just doesn't agree with what that looks like.

She's one of those people who buy into the whole those who can't, ref idea. She doesn't see it as "a viable path to success." The fact that I gave up being the one kicking the ball to be the one standing on the sidelines drives her up a wall. "Think of the scholarships you're missing out on" is a constant refrain, even though god knows there's not tons of money in college soccer.

The truth is, though, I actually was really good at the sport when I was younger. I'm no Rapinoe or anything, and I don't know that scholarships would have been in my future even if I hadn't quit, but I was the best defender we had in the local club, and I can juggle over a thousand times without dropping the ball. It just wasn't for me, especially after my brother . . .

Whatever. Needless to say, I realized pretty quickly that my priorities had changed. When the coach would ask me to study film, instead of watching plays and looking for where I could improve as a player, I'd find myself focusing on the refs, what they were doing, what they were seeing, if the lineman made the right call or the wrong call, analyzing what call I would make in that situation or how to defuse tensions by being fair. Pretty soon I hung up the cleats and grabbed my flags.

I started working for the same club I used to play for. First, I was just in charge of running scoreboards at big games, but Harry, the owner of this place, said he saw something in me. He asked me what I wanted to do-actually asked me and listened-and before I knew it, I was a lineman for youth soccer. Now I'm generally the one in the thick of it, standing in the center of the field getting in the mix. It's exhilarating and exciting in a way playing just isn't to me anymore. I've worked my way up from having to take extra shifts at the snack bar to being scheduled nonstop on the field. When we're short, Harry trusts me to be the one to run the game alone. It feels good. It feels like I'm making a difference. It feels like finally I can control something in my life. My mom accused me of hiding out on the fields, but the truth is I thrived at a time when the rest of my family was falling apart. I found my calling.

Down came the Neymar and Alex Morgan posters, and up went my queen, Sarah Thomas. Okay, sure, so they don't actually have posters made of her, but I ripped some images from newspapers and the internet and had them blown up and printed on card stock. Close enough.

But it's a very long road from here to her.

Refs go through years of training, starting out in little kids' games, like I am, progressing into the high school level and varsity if you get lucky. On to juco and then working your way through the college rank, and then, if you're really lucky and you work extremely hard, you go pro.

I get my mom's concern, and I get why some of my friends think I'm bananas for this. A lot of people think this is just a shit job for retirees or kids looking for a buck, but it's not. My boss, he gets flown all over the country to ref major competitions, mostly soccer showcases. He's constantly sought after and has built a reputation for being fair and knowledgeable. Every fancy tournament that parents are paying thousands for their kid to attend wouldn't happen without people like Harry and me.

My phone buzzes in my hand. Speak of the devil, he's calling me now.

"Hi, Harry," I say cheerfully. Aiden's eyebrows scrunch up, and he leans closer nosily.

Reviews

Praise for Playing for Keeps:

"This sweet romance is a home run." —People Magazine

"Charming . . . Without sacrificing the banter or sincerity that make up this winning romance, Dugan skillfully crafts parallel story lines in which the weight of loss and pressure to succeed haunt the protagonists throughout their everyday lives as they work toward their own futures." —Publishers Weekly

"[A] voice-driven, absorbing dual narrative . . . Ivy’s and June’s flawed coping strategies clash with their adorable budding romance, propelling them toward gut-wrenching heartbreak and terrifying, necessary, affirming new choices . . . A page-turner that handles heavy topics with wisdom." —Kirkus Reviews

“Playing for Keeps is sapphic sports romance perfection. Swoony and romantic, but unafraid to tackle grief, family expectations, and fighting for your dreams, this is a home run of a book.” —Rachael Lippincott, coauthor of the #1 New York Times Bestsellers Five Feet Apart and She Gets the Girl

Author

© Amber Hooper
Jennifer Dugan is a writer, a geek, and a romantic who writes the kinds of stories she wishes she’d had growing up. She’s the author of the graphic novel Coven, as well as the young adult novels Playing For KeepsThe Last Girls Standing, Melt With YouSome Girls DoVerona Comics, and Hot Dog Girl, which was called “a great, fizzy rom-com” by Entertainment Weekly and “one of the best reads of the year, hands down” by Paste magazine. She lives in upstate New York with her family, their dog, a strange kitten who enjoys wearing sweaters, and an evil cat who is no doubt planning to take over the world. You can visit Jennifer at JLDugan.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @JL_Dugan. View titles by Jennifer Dugan