A fast-paced, character-driven novel about a girl going her own way.


A teenager makes a huge change in her life to follow her athletic dreams in Girardi’s YA novel.

Julia Medina comes from a family of quarterbacks in small-town Pennsylvania. Football is their life, but as the youngest child and only girl, she ended up playing volleyball, instead. She’s expected to play hard and get scouted for an athletic scholarship during her senior year of high school. Around her 18th birthday, Julia starts to think about what she really wants, and she’s not sure it’s playing volleyball. She’s good at it, but her drive and passion for the sport have faded. Still, the Medinas are not a family of quitters, and after she gets elected team captain, it becomes even harder to leave the sport behind. Playing football with her brothers and friends on her birthday just solidifies her need to do something different and follow her true desires. But just as Julia decides that she’s going to try out for the open quarterback position on the Iron Valley Vikings football team, her boyfriend, Owen Malone, announces his decision to do the same. Girardi offers a coming-of-age novel that will resonate with teens who remain committed to their goals even when life seems to throw every possible obstacle in their way. The author wastes no time by jumping right into the plot and keeping the story moving at a brisk but pleasing pace. Julia’s fears about disappointing her friends and family while still wanting to play the game she loves make her a highly sympathetic character. The cast of secondary players, including her brothers and grandmother, comes across as genuine and adds extra humor and just the right amount of nonsports drama.

A fast-paced, character-driven novel about a girl going her own way.

Pub Date: March 3, 2022


Page Count: 333

Publisher: Wise Wolf Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre.


Survival camp? How can you not have bad feelings about that?

Sixteen-year-old nerd (or geek, but not dork) Henry Lambert has no desire to go to Strongwoods Survival Camp. His father thinks it might help Henry man up and free him of some of his odd phobias. Randy, Henry’s best friend since kindergarten, is excited at the prospect of going thanks to the camp’s promotional YouTube video, so Henry relents. When they arrive at the shabby camp in the middle of nowhere and meet the possibly insane counselor (and only staff member), Max, Henry’s bad feelings multiply. Max tries to train his five campers with a combination of carrot and stick, but the boys are not athletes, let alone survivalists. When a trio of gangsters drops in on the camp Games to try to collect the debt owed by the owner, the boys suddenly have to put their skills to the test. Too bad they don’t have any—at all. Strand’s summer-camp farce is peopled with sarcastic losers who’re chatty and wry. It’s often funny, and the gags turn in unexpected directions and would do Saturday Night Live skits proud. However, the story’s flow is hampered by an unnecessary and completely unfunny frame that takes place during the premier of the movie the boys make of their experience. The repeated intrusions bring the narrative to a screeching halt.

Without that frame, this would have been a fine addition to the wacked-out summer-camp subgenre. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: March 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4022-8455-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A fresh, beautifully written look at high school sports that sparkles with strong female athletes.


“The girls who played varsity last season each still nurse a secret wound, the thinnest of scabs capping a mountain of scar tissue.”

The intense pressure that Coach exerts on these former field hockey champions is far less than what they place on themselves. They are tormented by last season’s championship loss: Ali and Kearson choked; Mel, the leading scorer, didn’t score at all; and Phoebe limped off the field. This year, the West Essex Wildcats—including new members Grace and Luci—are willing to give up romance, free time, and family for the privilege of being a Wildcat. At sleepovers before weekend games the girls enjoy dinner, movies, and bonding, but on this night, the first before the new season, devastating secrets are revealed. Anyone who raised a high school championship trophy—or dreams of doing so—will find Vivian’s (Stay Sweet, 2018, etc.) book powerfully familiar and sink deeply into this juicy read. The writing is both poetic and blunt, just like the badass Wildcats. The pace may frustrate—it takes a while to grasp that the book is not about the season but a series of perspectives and shocking reveals over the course of one long night. The end, while satisfying, lacks sophistication. Most main characters are white; Ali is Korean American, and Luci is Argentinian and white American.

A fresh, beautifully written look at high school sports that sparkles with strong female athletes. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3990-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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