Jo Beckett has been lost and adrift since the death of her wrestling coach father during her preteen years. She feels disconnected from her mother, stepfather and half-sister, and she has no female friendships. Jo is lonely. She manages the school's wrestling team because staying involved with wrestling is the way she maintains a connection to her father. She wants a caring boyfriend but every time she becomes involved with one of the wrestling team members, he dumps her after they have sex. One night, at a party, she finds out that the boys refer to her as a "practice girl" for practicing sexual techniques, but that they don't consider her girlfriend material. Jo also finds out that her best friend Sam, a boy on the wrestling team, has not spoken out or stood up for her when he has heard the other boys disrespecting her and treating her so poorly. This devastating revelation is a wake-up call for Jo who feels humiliated, ashamed, betrayed, and angry. She distances herself from Sam, reevaluates all the relationships in her life and reconnects with a former female friend. She decides to join the team as a wrestler rather than the manager. As she pieces her life back together, she learns to recognize her own worth and inner strength.
Jo is a well-developed character, and her first-person narration works well. A wide range of teenage experiences is explored including loss of a parent, sexuality and relationships, friendships, family, and the importance of a support system. I appreciated the diversity in this book, and that the main character is a female wrestler. This book would be great for a teen book club and could facilitate discussions about relationships and self-worth. Practice Girl is an inspiring, important, relatable and relevant YA novel.