An odd pair make an unconventional arrangement in this rushed book for reluctant readers.
Ryan “Replay” Hale is the golden boy of his school’s football team even though he feels ambivalent about the game. Markus is the awkward new kid, an exchange student from Estonia who speaks English with a strong accent. Replay has promise as a budding filmmaker, and a teacher encourages him to apply to UCLA’s film school, but he doesn’t have the confidence, can’t afford the application fee, and his parents are insistent that he try for a football scholarship to college. An opportunity to earn the money he needs presents itself when Markus asks Replay to be his bodyguard after Replay rescues him from a bully. The offer seems like easy money, too good to refuse. For $125 per week, Replay is to accompany Markus to and from school and even allows him to attend a party with him. Markus needs protection from a mysterious person called the Plunger who has connections to the Russian mob. Unfortunately, the relationship between Replay and Marcus feels contrived, and the story ends very abruptly. Replay’s family dynamics are livelier and more engaging than most of the rest of the book, however briefly described. There are no physical clues regarding Replay’s ethnicity.
Despite the issues with the pacing, the accessible writing and occasional humor will keep readers engaged. (Fiction. 12-18)