A friendship between two teens, one black and one white, emerges both because and in spite of racial change in a 1970s Louisiana town.
The first time Rodney Boulet sees Tatum “Tater” Henry, he is being attacked for daring to come to a whites-only park. Despite the racial climate, Rodney and Tater become friends a few years later when Tater is the first African-American on the baseball team. Integration of the high school means that he, Rodney, and Rodney’s twin sister, Angie, will also be classmates. Angie seems to share their mother’s belief in equality, but Rodney carries many of his father’s prejudices. High school, with its emphasis on sports and dating, proves tough, especially as Tater demonstrates his talent as quarterback and he and Angie grow close. Bradley is an accomplished sportswriter and deftly evokes the cultural importance of small-town sports and how these communities experienced racial change in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Rodney and his family are richly drawn characters; indeed, narrator Rodney’s grappling with his ambivalence about race is especially well-done. Tater, on the other hand reads more like a symbol than a person. He has overcome tragedy, but readers are left to wonder at the source of his strength.
Still, the atmospheric narrative is successful at revealing the tension and texture of a distinctive time and place and one teenager’s struggle to make sense of it. (Historical fiction. 12-16)