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An encouraging, if incomplete, tale of high school sports in the melting pot

When Somali refugees move to his Maine town, a soccer captain matures in this Chris Crutcher–reminiscent drama based on a true event.

High school senior Tom Bouchard is comfortable in the middle. He's uncomfortable with both his racist, working-class uncle and his anti-racist, college-educated aunt. He likes the Somali kids on his soccer team but doesn't mind that his hot girlfriend is a bigot. As more and more immigrants populate Enniston, rising tensions force Tom to pick sides. Richer towns, alarmed at the amazing soccer players among Enniston's Somali immigrants, challenge the eligibility of star player Saeed. The concerns of locals—ranging from outright racism to worries about an infrastructure collapsing under the influx of English language learners—lead to taunts, fights and worse. Highlighting this tension (with an unexpected subtlety, compared to Tom's tendency to explain facts about Somalia he learned on Wikipedia) are the French last names of almost all of Enniston's white residents, grandchildren of Québecois once beaten in school for speaking French. Tom is a complex enough character to carry the heavy weight of racism, classism, sexism, culture shock and Islamophobia that comprise his story, with a believably encouraging coming-of-age. Still, the Somalis are here for Tom's education—as Tom's father says to him, "aren't you lucky? Knowing all these stories"—not for their own sake. Pair this novel with one from an immigrant's viewpoint, such as Marina Budhos' Tell Us We're Home (2010).

An encouraging, if incomplete, tale of high school sports in the melting pot . (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86580-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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An enjoyable read even for couch potatoes.

It all comes down to heart for one athlete.

Abby is on top of the world. She routinely blows her competition out of the pool and is on the verge of qualifying for the Olympic trials at 16, thus fulfilling her father's thwarted dreams for himself. She's got her loyal best friend, Jen, and her handsome, easygoing boyfriend, Connor, both fellow swimmers. The only problem is Alec, whose questions about Connor's performance in the pool also extend to Abby. But then Abby gets dizzy and faints after a race. A doctor's visit reveals she has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that is often a cause of unexpected death in teen athletes. It's treatable with beta blockers—but Abby can't swim fast on the pills. And without the pills, she risks death every time she's in the pool. Abby makes all the expected mistakes as she comes to grips with her diagnosis, including offering sex to a no-longer-interested Connor. It will take time, support and love for Abby to figure out who she is without swimming. Dominy writes Abby’s narration in the first person, giving readers a poolside view to her process; it’s not flashy, but it works. All in all, this is a solid look at an elite athlete who gets benched: Only the juicing subplot underperforms, although it helps to define character motivations.

An enjoyable read even for couch potatoes. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74443-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Overall, a solid debut.

In 1995 Atlanta, a mixed-race girl finds a way to stand out on her own terms.

Wing and her brother, Marcus, attract attention because they're half Chinese, half black. While Marcus is a football hero, Wing suffers bullying from a mean girl and secretly pines for Aaron, Marcus' best friend, a black boy. Everything changes when Marcus, while driving drunk, kills two people and falls into a coma. Wing feels completely alone; neither her mother nor her grandmothers, LaoLao and Granny Dee, seem to know what to do. So Wing starts running in secret, prodded by her imaginary dragon and lioness, which she has not seen since her father died. She feels free when she runs, as though she can outrun all her mixed emotions. When Aaron finds out, he encourages Wing, and they grow closer even as the situation at home worsens. A running sponsorship could save her family—but in trying to chase that sponsorship, will Wing lose the one thing that makes her feel free? The choice of time period feels unjustified—this story could have been equally true in 2016—and the device of the dragon and lioness feels forced. Nevertheless, Wing's sense of isolation is well-captured, and her grief and confusion are raw and moving.

Overall, a solid debut. (Historical fiction. 14-16)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55502-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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