Authors Rock Tour: Sidelined by Kendra C. Highley

by Kendra C. Highley

Contemporary YA (Entangled Publishing, September 2013) 

Note: Book cover coming soon!

Eighteen-year-old Genna Pierce (aka Imogen Sawyer Pierce…no thanks to her dad), is the star basketball player on her high school team. After being pushed to excel in her sport since age six, she’s about to fulfill her mother’s dream of playing at the collegiate level. University scouts are taking notice of Genna’s talent, her high school team is on its way to the state tourney, and Jake Butler, the source of Genna’s daydreams since ninth grade, is showing some definite interest. When he asks her out, sparks fly. As their relationship takes off, Genna believes things can’t get better than this.

Then, it’s over.

Genna’s dream shatters in seconds at the state tournament when she comes down wrong from a jump ball and breaks two bones in her leg. In a tailspin, Genna feels like her life is falling apart: her parents are fighting more than ever, her friends don’t get what she’s going through, and Genna’s not even sure who she is without basketball. Jake tries to help her cope, but Genna doesn’t understand why he’d want the broken version of the girl he fell for, straining their relationship to the breaking point. Left to wonder why this would happen to her after she worked so hard for so long, Genna turns to the only solace that eases her pain: Vicodin.
GUEST POST by author Kendra C. Highley

When I first thought about writing about an elite athlete, I laughed. See, I’m a klutz. No, really. I walk into the side of my desk at work all the time, I trip over my own feet and I frequently drop things. If you looked up the definition of an athlete in the dictionary, I’d be listed under the antonyms.

Writing Sidelined took a serious education. I love sports. I love watching the poetry of motion as super talented people play. But getting inside the head of an athlete, a basketball star with multiple scholarship opportunities, was going to be a stretch. Genna Pierce, my main character, is tall, fast and has a near-perfect hook shot. We only have one of those things in common (I’m 5’9”). So how did I get into her head? How would I be able to convey her fears and dreams, and how would I show the crushing despair of losing the game she loves?

I started with stories. Two good friends from high school played varsity basketball for our women’s team. One became a physical therapist who works with leg injuries. The other went on to play in college, and now coaches a high school team in Moore, Oklahoma. I asked them a bunch of questions about games, the camaraderie of a team and most of all, how it felt to play. The emotions, the stress, the all-out desire to win and their extreme dedication to excel. Anybody who wants to get really good at something has to put in the hours, and these women did. I also asked about weird moments on the court (jostling around under the basket and getting an elbow in the chest, being pinched when the ref was wasn’t looking, people throwing up on the sidelines) to add some authenticity.

In the end, the story is as much about Genna’s spiral out of control as it is about her single-minded focus on basketball and how she has to discover who she is outside of the sport she loves. Understanding her motivations was tough at times, but it was a really rewarding process.


 Kendra C. Highley lives in north Texas with her husband and two children. She also serves as staff to two self-important and high-powered cats. This, according to the cats, is her most critical job. She believes in everyday magic, extraordinary love stories and the restorative powers of dark chocolate.

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