Harrison has led a hard-knock life up until he’s taken in by loving foster parents “Coach” and Jennifer.
After he inadvertently causes the man’s death, Harrison is taken from a brutal foster home run by a farmer who uses foster kids as unpaid labor, a situation blithely ignored by the county. His new foster parents are different. Coach is in charge of the middle school football team, and all 13-year-old Harrison has ever wanted to do is to play football, the perfect outlet for his seething undercurrent of anger at life. Oversized for his age, he’s brilliant at the game but also over-the-top aggressive, until a hit makes his knee start aching—and then life deals him another devastating blow. The pain isn’t an injury but bone cancer. Many of the characters—loving friends Justin and Becky, bully Leo, a mean-spirited math teacher, cancer victim Marty and the major, an amputee veteran who comes to rehabilitate Harrison after life-changing surgery—are straight out of the playbook for maudlin middle-grade fiction. Nevertheless, this effort edges above trite because of well-depicted football scenes and the sheer force of Harrison himself. His altogether believable anger diminishes his likability but breathes life into an otherwise stock role.
A predictable, fast-paced sports tale with some unexpected heart. (Fiction. 11-14)