Adding layers of complexity to the interactions of athletes, this sports novel set in Seattle offers a twofer: football and soccer.
Hunter Gates, a blond, white quarterback with his future focused on football, has both henchmen and a high-pressure father. Chinese-American Richie Fang couldn’t be more different. He’s a boisterous spark plug who loves attention and bad jokes and is the ideal target for bullying despite his soccer prowess. He’s also intensely competitive in every arena, with achievements in violin, math, architecture, and chess, fulfilling many model-minority stereotypes. Narrator Brock Ripley, a white sophomore and soccer goalie with a reputation for a yellow streak, befriends Richie. When Hunter’s dad asks Brock to practice with Hunter, Brock discovers a potential as a football wide receiver due to good hands and ball sense. The two develop rapport on field, but Brock cringes as he witnesses Hunter’s bullying, particularly of Richie—but he does nothing. Sharing chess and a parent who is not healthy with Richie brings them close. The foreshadowing of what happens when Richie is pushed beyond reason ratchets up the tension, mirrored by the play on the field over the two years covered. Race is crucial to the plot, as stereotypical expectations are both utilized and confronted; most characters are white or Asian, with a few African-Americans.
The sports may hook readers, but the bullying will land them. (Fiction. 12-16)