THE HEARTBEAT OF HALFTIME

Wunderli (Blue Between the Clouds, 1992) turns on the afterburners in this wild tale of a mediocre junior high football team whose players propel themselves into the championship, fueled by anger, grief, and desire. With only two wins—and those were flukes—in the last couple of years, Wing, Sparky, Taco Bell, and the rest of the Olympus Titans have built a solid losing tradition, but the addition of a new coach and a crazed middle linebacker (dubbed ``Spray Can'' for his lisp) changes the chemistry drastically. Everyone suddenly discovers something to prove—particularly Wing, the narrator, who is watching with fury his once robust father die of cancer. A string of exciting victories ensues, capped by a glorious championship game and an equally glorious food fight. With its belching contests and other vulgar behavior, broadly drawn characters, and a hilarious, disgusting pregame ritual, this is not a story for delicate sensibilities, but Wing's relationship with his father is thoughtfully handled, as is the way he comes to terms with his rage and grief. It's predictable, TV-movie fodder, but unusually vivid, thanks to some strong emotions and plenty of action. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4713-1

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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GETTING TO FIRST BASE WITH DANALDA CHASE

Using baseball as a guide for dating, Beam, in his U.S. debut, hits a grand-slam. When seventh-grader Darcy Spillman becomes smitten with beautiful and popular Danalda Chase, he hopes to “get to first base” with her. Of course, first he has to ask her out, and Darcy isn’t sure Danalda even knows he exists. Normally, Darcy would turn to his Grandpa Spillman for advice, but Grandpa is showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s. Instead, he turns to the new girl, Kamna, who suggests that Darcy should try out for the Cheetahs, his middle school’s baseball team. That would certainly win Danalda’s favor. Unfortunately, when the two finally go out, Danalda lives up to her reputation of being superficial, leaving Darcy unimpressed. It turns out that it’s Kamna he’d rather be with. Using baseball terms as his chapter headings, followed by definitions, Beam has managed to write a story that is fresh, funny and appealing to lovers and lovers of baseball, both male and female. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-525-47578-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2006

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SHOTS ON GOAL

Wallace flattens the sophomore jinx in this taut, present-tense tale of an underdog high-school soccer team battling internal dissension, set in the same Pennsylvania town as his strong debut, Wrestling Sturbridge (1996). Friends and soccer nuts since grade school, Barry and Joey bring new life to a team that was 2-11-1 last year, but their relationship is undergoing a power shift. Joey's need to dominate is getting on Barry's nerves, on the field—where his reluctance to pass the ball is costing games—and off: He cuts in on Barry's pursuit of Shannon, a luscious schoolmate. The more the buddies drift apart, though, the harder Joey plays, and through a series of exciting games he takes the team to a climactic try at the local league championship. Meanwhile, Barry arranges to be alone with Shannon at a party, and Joey retaliates by getting him fired from the inn where they both work. The friends' rift is healed by an exchange of knuckles and twin attacks of common sense. Wallace's teenage characters—all involved in athletics—are drawn from life and mostly likable; adults stay in the background, but Barry enjoys an unusually close relationship with his savvy college-age brother, Tommy, a font of good advice. Thanks in part to occasional descriptive asides, Sturbridge takes on a distinctive character, too: It's a small, ethnically diverse, sports-focused town, limited in its opportunities but not as confining as it seemed in the previous book. Engrossing fare. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-88670-2

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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