Synopsis (from goodreads):
Just because the play goes wrong, doesn’t mean you quit the game.
Ella Parker seems to have everything: great friends, an awesome family and a star position on her high school basketball team. The only thing missing from her life is a boyfriend. That changes once she catches the eye of Sam Cleveland. With Sam by her side Ella has it all. When a drunken night results in an unwanted pregnancy, her perfect life is turned upside down and she’s faced with an impossible decision.
Katherine Frayne has always wanted to be a mother. But with the last results of her in vitro fertilization pointing to no chance of a baby, her hopes are dashed. Then her husband Danny suggests they adopt. At first Kat is resistant, but she soon warms to the idea.
Ella and Katherine must navigate their lives amidst tough decisions, the consequences of which not only affect them but those they love the most.
Teenage pregnancies and adoption at times may be considered controversial but in Natalie Corbett Sampson handles them beautifully in her debut novel, Game Plan.
Seventeen year old Ella Parker has a plan – to get a basketball scholarship to college. And she’s on track to get there too. There are scouts coming to her games and she’s never been in better form. But then she meets Sam Cleveland. He’s gorgeous and the first boy to ever take an interest in her. Will one drunken accident change every plan Ella’s ever made for herself?
Katherine and Danny Frayne have been married for seven years and trying for a baby for most of them. Unable to conceive naturally, they start looking into the adoption process and find it can be heartbreaking and seemingly hopeless at times.
The contrast between the two stories was beautifully executed. Ella is a girl who never expected to be a pregnant teenager. She’s a good student, never caused her parents any worry and is dedicated to her sport. Her distress at her situation is palpable and understandable. Katherine on the other hand has a deep instinctual need to be a mother. She feels like there’s something missing in her life without a baby and is desperate to do whatever she can to fill that need. I liked her scepticism regarding the adoption process. She’s passionate about becoming a mother but I admired that she didn’t let it completely take over her life.
Plot wise – there aren’t a lot of surprises. But that isn’t a problem. This story’s strengths lay in the honest way the characters deal with their situations and how their real their emotions feel. Both Ella and Katherine are heartbroken but for almost opposite reasons. Ella’s interactions with Sam felt relatable for many people – both in the upswing of the relationship and the way they reacted to the unplanned pregnancy.
I enjoyed reading this book and seeing how Ella and Katherine dealt with the tough situations life handed them. It was a beautiful read and I look forward to reading more from Natalie Corbett Sampson.
Thanks to Fierce Ink Press for the review copy.
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Q & A with Natalie Corbett Sampson!
I was lucky enough to get to ask Natalie some questions about Game Plan, writing in general and reading.
- What inspired you to write Game Plan?
This story came very quickly to me, driving home one night it just sort of tumbled into my head so all I had to do was get it down. A lot of the story came from my own adoption story, even though our family’s journey was very different. A lot of Ella’s story came from my own high school time – I wasn’t a pregnant teen but the insecurities and hopes she felt are pretty common to teens, I think. I have often wondered about birth mothers, how they come to their decision and what they go through. Ella’s experiences are how I imagine it might be sometimes.
- When you first decided to write Game Plan, did you always know you wanted to focus on both the story of the birth mother and that of the adoptive family too?
They seemed like a good pair of stories to set parallel. Too often adoptions are only seen from one side – you see a family adopt a baby or know of someone who had to place a baby, but they really can’t be separated – during that time or any time after. It’s important to know that while adoption builds one family, it is always linked to a loss.
- Teen pregnancy can be a very controversial issue in society. Were there any particular parts in Ella and Katherine’s story that were hard to write considering what reader’s reactions might be to your novel?
I’m glad you asked because that was one of the hardest parts for me to settle myself. I wanted Ella’s decision to be sound, and without a baby there’s no adoption. I struggled to portray realistically what would drive a teenager to complete a pregnancy instead of seeking an abortion but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing so in a judgmental way. I wanted to make sure the decision to have the baby was right for Ella, not because abortion was wrong, just that it wasn’t right for her.
- What are you most proud of in Game Plan?
You mean besides getting it finished at all? I’ve been told that it’s real and relatable and that some readers have cried at parts. I’m proud of that. I really hope I have captured an image of a birth mother in a respectful light.
- Are you fluent in text talk? I have to admit that I had to google some of the text messages characters sent and received in this book!
NO WAY! The first draft had few texts, lots of phone calls… my editor said ‘wait, teens text!’ So I turned them into texts and typed them out long like I text and again the editor reminded me how out of touch I was with new technology and communication. So I went back and ‘translated’ all the long forms into text talk. Then it got fun and I might have gotten a little carried away with it!
- Are there any novels you’ve read that you think more people should read too?
I read a lot… GoodReads is my favourite app. My latest favourite was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I love historical fiction and Phillipa Gregory writes good ones. And of course it should be mandatory for everyone to read the Harry Potter series. I read the Divergent trilogy recently to help with writing my next book and really enjoyed those too.
- You’re a very busy woman! Between your children, husband, work and other commitments, do you find it difficult to find time to write?
I do, so I’ve made an effort to prioritize and schedule it. I changed my hours at my day job to work longer but fewer days so I could commit two days to writing. It’s very easy to schedule that last and do what I need for everyone else but I’m trying very hard to respect it as a priority.
- What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
My kids are terribly over scheduled. They are in basketball and hockey, swimming lessons and music… most of my ‘free time’ is spent shuttling to one activity or the other. I take my camera most places I go and force my kids to look cute. I have to read before I can fall asleep.
- Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? What do you do when it happens?
Yes, it’s horrible! I usually just type something on the page – anything really – and let the words keep coming until they start to make sense and then go back and delete the garbage. It’s so much easier to edit bad work than to stare at a blank page and work from nothing.
- Have there been any books or authors that have influenced your own writing? Which ones?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I read a lot, and a lot of different stuff. I would expect everything I read will have an impact on what and how I write, but I can’t say there’s anything specifically that I can say changed or impacted the way I write. Actually I would say songs have a greater impact on what I write. I love how a good song can elicit a strong memory or emotion with just a line or two. There are times when I hear a song and wish I could recreate that emotion in a story.
- What are you currently reading?
I’m supposed to be reading Persuasion by Jane Austen for my book club. It’s a challenge.
- Are you working on anything now?
I’m prepping my second book for submission to publishers. It’s a story that I love, it’s very different from Game Plan. It talks about choosing identity, the power of words and the necessity of creativity.
- Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
THANK YOU!!! I’m so thrilled to have the little story I pecked away at on my computer turn into a real live book! I appreciate readers for taking the time to read it, and really really hope it’s enjoyed. I would love to hear back from any readers to know what worked for them and what wasn’t quite right.
Thanks Natalie for taking the time to answer my questions! I enjoyed reading Game Plan. I thought it captured a lot of the emotions and frustrations that both sides of an adoption face.
Thank you for reading and for including it on your blog!
I always think it’s fantastic when I have things in common with authors! I’m currently reading The Night Circus (and enjoying it) and Persuasion is one of my favourite book. I hope you finish reading it. I wish you the best with your second book and can’t wait to read it once it’s been published.
Fierce Ink Press is generously offering one ecopy of Game Plan for one of my readers. To be entered in the giveaway just leave a comment on this post and I’ll randomly select a winner one week from today.