Readers don’t have to like football in order to love this book.
Wyatt couldn’t be more different from his older brother, Brett, the quarterback and football hero of a Massachusetts town struggling with a collapsing fishing industry and a red algae bloom. Their father embodies the luckless town’s obsession with the only consistently positive facet of life: high school football. Feeling anything but cool, Wyatt describes his own large physique in unflattering terms and is on the receiving end of most of his alcoholic father’s verbal abuse and neglect. As he struggles to align an accidental sports success with a secret his brother implores him to keep, Wyatt can’t decide whom to disappoint. In his brilliant debut, Kester links a litany of teenage woes with the yearning to escape a dying town and a dead-end life. Recognizable characters, locker room language, and guy humor accompany thorny ethical dilemmas. Buoyed by self-deprecating wit and rare insight, Wyatt endures the humiliations of fat shaming, taunting, bullying, and being the odd man out in a family of three males. The storyline plays both offense and defense with perfection while all-star resilience and a plucky best friend save our hero from a Gordian knot of a problem. Can the hero of a sports story be an overweight, ignored, nonathletic team mascot plucked from obscurity to land in the limelight? You bet! All characters are white.
A winner. (Fiction. 14-18)