First-generation rich boy Jack is shipped off to prestigious Oakhurst Hall, where he makes varsity football as a walk-on, molds potheads into a recording-worthy band, wows teachers with his insightful writing and meets the intriguing Caroline—but Jack’s a teen, so there’s plenty of angst and self-analysis, too.
Even with mom long-gone to do “good work” in Guatemala (apparently unconcerned about “the work she hasn’t finished” in raising her son), a father obsessed with work, a kind but inexperienced stepmother, and little home support for his loves of music and running, Jack knows he has more going for him than most. But he’s still a teen away from home facing life-altering decisions: bulk up through weightlifting alone, or try steroids? Go with Dad’s “try harder than the people on each side of you” competitive advice or his coach’s “[you’re] playing for the men on each side of you” message? Buck school tradition, or go along to get along? The compressed time frame (football season) and deep bench of characters necessitate skimming over profound development, but the pace is fast and the writing clean, entertaining and candid. An appealing mix of teen confusion and potential, Jack’s greatest threat is his ’roid-raging teammates’ late hits, but a happy outcome is never really in doubt.
Football forms the backbone, but music courses through the veins of a dynamic but thoughtful novel of self-discovery.(Fiction. 12-16)