MacVeagh’s debut novel offers an involved depiction of a youth soccer team in small-town America.
Rather than play on separate teams, seventh-graders Nick McCoy and Erik Steiner, lifelong friends and teammates, form their own local team in a high level youth soccer league: the titular Blue Marauders. This allows them to play closer to home and also play with their friends, although some of their pals aren’t quite skilled enough for the league. Still, the squad quickly comes together with such notable inclusions as Abbey Stephens, a strong defender who forgoes a spot in the girls’ league for a chance to play on the hometown team, and Kenny Garrity, a rich out-of-towner with considerable skills and a prima-donna attitude. The team stumbles out of the gate, struggling against larger, more organized teams while also fighting among themselves. At the same time, the teammates—particularly Nick—must deal with increasing schoolwork and social drama. A culture change, brought about by a new, somewhat mysterious coach, turns the tide of the season and brings excitement to the team and the town as a whole. MacVeagh’s prose is clear, direct, and easy to follow. However, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with the large cast of characters. The plot is a typical underdog story, but one done well enough to hold readers’ interest. MacVeagh stuffs the book with detail, giving readers the back stories of every player on the team, their parents, and other kids at school and descriptions of homework, life around town, and every Blue Marauder game, down to individual goals scored. Because of this depth, the book is perhaps a bit too long for some readers in its intended audience, but the sports scenes should be enough to keep avid soccer fans invested.
A good, detailed read for young soccer players and fans who want a realistic, entertaining depiction of American youth soccer.