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LEVERAGE by Joshua Cohen

LEVERAGE

By Joshua Cohen

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-525-42306-5
Publisher: Dutton

Kurt and Danny are on high-school teams vastly different in school status. Danny, slightly built, is on the underfunded gymnastics team, while physically gifted Kurt is the latest addition to the popular football team. Each uses sports to cope with tough personal issues. Kurt’s foster care and painful stutter are more visible than Danny’s insecurities. A bullying episode inflicted by some football players drives a young man to suicide and links Danny and Kurt in an uneasy secret. This frank portrayal of the darker side of high-stakes school athletics is told in two very distinctive voices. There is little subtlety in the storytelling—the football coach is predictably single-minded, while the gymnastic coach is sensitive and earnest—but the exploitation of young athletes, from accepted steroid use to the way school budgets are manipulated, comes across. The game sequences are well done, and there is plenty of authentic locker-room talk, some of it racist and homophobic. Kurt and his struggles are heartbreakingly real, and readers will pull for him long after the story ends. (Fiction. 14 & up)