A small-town football hero grapples with body dysmorphia through verse.
Jack is the heralded high school running back in Comfort, Texas. He’s a lauded athlete, but he’s laden with sorrow and the gripping fear of letting his family—including the spirit of his dead father—down (his widowed mother works endlessly to support Jack and his sister). Jack’s outward sheen doesn’t translate to a gilded self-perception. Struggling with body dysmorphia, he starves himself and eventually begins a regimen of steroids. When he collapses on the field, he’s forced to face himself through therapy and rehab. The football-as-religion trope gets a sensitivity chip here. The title and dedication imply a heavy hand of enforced masculinity from antagonists, but this pressure to “man up” is Jack’s own and doesn’t surface as a problematic, townwide toxicity. In fact, the coach’s concern for Jack is obvious, and the love story between Jack and his female suitor is subtle and sweet. As Jack evolves, so too does his storytelling. The black-and-white admissions become richer metaphors (“This time, / my hot truck seats / mean something new / is about to begin”)—a subtle but lovely way to underscore his psychological healing. It’s a simple-not-simplistic book ideal for reluctant readers. Characters are presumed white.
A lightweight for reluctant readers, a heavyweight for those facing body dysmorphia. (Verse novel. 13-18)