A tense, superstitious, hardworking boy learns that luck is generated from the inside out.
Ari Fish, 12, the younger son in a supportive but educationally ambitious family, is obsessed with soccer and luck. Before he plays a game, he goes through a series of obsessive rituals designed to maximize his good fortune. His best friend, Jerry Mac MacDonald, is cut from a different cloth entirely. The son of an indifferent single mother and unknown father, Mac, who is their team captain, social top-dog and star player, is loosey-goosey cool, a bundle of pure natural talent. Mac and Ari’s friendship is tested when a girl, Parker Llewellyn, the daughter of a hard-driving soccer dad, makes it onto the team. In addition to sexism, this event brings out other themes, including the value of preparation and the importance of putting your team first. After an overlong set-up, matters are brought to a head when Ari’s lucky soccer card disappears from his backpack. Mac and Parker each accuse the other of stealing it, dividing Ari’s loyalties and putting him in a tough social and ethical position. It’s a credible middle-grade dilemma, but Aronson couples it with some unnecessary drama involving Ari’s firefighter brother. The play-by-play sports action is nicely integrated, though, and it enhances the plotline. The novel ends on a high though bittersweet note; the right thing won’t please everyone.
Solid. (Fiction. 8-12)