Plenty of play-by-play peppers this inside look at America's top game, with a focus on early recruitment of elite high school athletes.
Way early. Following in older brother Carter's football trail brings Travis to the attention of a top coach at nearby Gainesville University. When Travis is in the seventh grade, Carter commits to Gainesville—and the coach is impressed enough with Travis to offer the 13-year-old white boy a scholarship before he starts eighth grade. Suddenly, the off-field games of media and popularity are coming full tilt at both brothers. Travis' visions of glory, his sudden need to be smart in an ESPN interview, and his struggles dealing with injury and loss are all described in Travis' narration, supplemented by Carter's quick commentary between chapters and occasional insertions of interviews and media reports. That naïve Travis lacks the emotional maturity to complement the strength of his game is not surprising. An absent father who has a new family in California complicates the home scene, while the mother who has been their support and guide surprisingly never quite comes into focus. A subplot about Carter's black teammate and roommate, Alex, relies on stereotype to illustrate the underside of college ball. With an astute sense of his audience, Volponi in the end returns readers to the love of the game that should be the heart of any athlete who wants to succeed in playing at the highest level.
Absorbing if flawed. (Fiction. 12-16)