Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Review: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

5 stars

All Sal Casillas wants to do is play soccer. It's her life, and if she works hard enough, she can help her team to the top of the Women's Premier League. The last thing she wants is a distraction, especially when it takes the form of Reiner Kulti, retired soccer icon and Sal's new assistant coach. As a girl, Sal plastered her room with his pictures, but the man who watches her from the side of the field each day is nothing like her childish imaginings.  He is, in short, a bit of a bastard. On the rare occasions he speaks, it's to put someone down. Sal's the only one brave enough to tear a strip off him, and when she does, a tentative friendship emerges. As Sal gets to know the man beneath the tight-lipped and intimidating exterior, she realises he might be an egotistical, arrogant, stubborn pain in the ass, but he's also vulnerable and alone.  

Mariana Zapata's Kulti was atypical; longer than most romance novels, and with protagonists who had a platonic relationship for the majority of the book.  But the pay off was definitely worth it. Watching Sal and Kulti circle around each other was an engaging and refreshing change from compressed storylines and insta-love.

Pulling off a book of this length wouldn't have been possible without excellent characterisation. Sal was wonderfully developed, kind but assertive. Perhaps more importantly, she was witty and funny, a necessary foil to the taciturn Kulti. I also really appreciated that Sal wasn't reduced to a zero-sum tomboy stereotype.  She played soccer and worked in landscaping, but also loved 'feminine' stuff like face masks.  

And Kulti.  I didn't want to like him, I really didn't. He could be insensitive, but he was also a little bit like a lost puppy who followed a child home from the park and refused to leave. He was an enticing and interesting mix of contradictions and in the end, his dedication to Sal and her career won me over. I try to keep my reviews from being too fan-girly, but honestly, the way Kulti called Sal Schnecke got me every time.  Gotta love a good German endearment.

In fact, in light of the effect this book had on me, I'm going to issue a caveat emptor: if you buy Kulti, you may find yourself daydreaming your way through the morning commute and end up using your data allowance to google the German soccer team.  It was a sacrifice I was more than willing to make, but if you are looking to invest minimal time and effort in a book, save Kulti for another day.

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