An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories.

FINAL SEASON

A star 12-year-old quarterback has a championship to win, a developing family tragedy to cope with, and a life-changing decision to make.

Barely disguising the autobiographical elements contained here in the wake of his own diagnosis of ALS, former Atlanta Falcons player Green places his protagonist, Ben Redd, in a football family and on an upstate New York team coached by his dad and two older brothers—all former gridiron stars themselves. Ben’s anticipation as he looks forward to a season that will be capped by a game against archrival Penn Yan battles with his terror as he watches his father’s NFL injuries come home to roost in slurred speech, loss of physical coordination, and, eventually, a frantic trip to the hospital for an emergency tracheotomy. But as Ben’s parents, both iron willed, clash over whether he should be allowed to follow the family career path (and one of his brothers even announces that none of his kids will ever play), the sport’s allure comes through in a series of exciting clashes, with Ben and wonderfully hard-nosed new teammate, Thea Jean, leading the on-field heroics on the way to a last-yard, smash-mouth finale that leaves him dazed and exultant, with a broken finger, a probable concussion…and a choice of futures. Though the cast is mostly male and mostly White, between them, Thea and Ben’s mom add strong female representation.

An intense referendum on football’s dangers and glories. (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-248595-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Energizing and compassionate.

OBIE IS MAN ENOUGH

An aspiring transgender Junior Olympian swimmer finds the strength and pride in his identity to race toward his dreams in this debut coming-of-age novel by groundbreaking trans athlete Bailar.

Starting over after his abusive and discriminatory swim coach excluded him from the team, Obie Chang, a biracial (White/Korean) transgender boy worries about catching up to the other boys and proving that he is “man enough.” Although his family supports him, one of his best friends at school and the pool has turned into his biggest bully, and the other is drifting away toward the mean, popular girls. As he dives from the blocks into the challenging waters of seventh grade and swims toward his goal of qualifying for the Junior Olympics, Obie discovers belonging in his community and in himself. Affirming adults—including his parents and grandparents, a new swim coach, and his favorite teacher—play significant supporting roles by offering encouragement without pressure, centering Obie’s feelings, and validating Obie’s right to set his own boundaries. Vulnerable first-person narration explores Obie’s internal conflict about standing up for himself and his desire to connect to his Korean heritage through his relationship with Halmoni, his paternal grandmother. A romance with Charlie, a cisgender biracial (Cuban/White) girl, is gentle and privacy-affirming. Short chapters and the steady pace of external tension balance moments of rumination, grounding them in the ongoing action of Obie’s experiences.

Energizing and compassionate. (author's note, resources, glossary) (Fiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-37946-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A thought-provoking title for sophisticated readers.

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S. (AS TOLD TO HIS BROTHER)

A missing boy returns from another world. Will anyone believe his story?

When 12-year-old Aidan goes missing, his family and community members search everywhere in their small town. Things progress from worrying to terrifying when Aidan doesn’t turn up. No note. No trace. Not even a body. Six days later, Aidan’s younger brother, Lucas, finds Aidan alive in the attic they’d searched many times before. Aidan claims he was in a magical world called Aveinieu and that he got there through a dresser. While everyone around the brothers searches for answers, Lucas gets Aidan to open up about Aveinieu. Lucas, who narrates the story, grapples with the impossibility of the situation as he pieces it all together. Is any part of Aidan’s story true? YA veteran Levithan’s first foray into middle grade is a poignant tale of brotherly love and family trauma. The introspective writing, funneled through a precocious narrator, is as much about what truth means as about what happened. Though an engaging read for the way it makes readers consider and reconsider the mystery, the slow burn may deter those craving tidy resolutions. Bookish readers, however, will delight in the homages to well-known books, including When You Reach Me and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The cast defaults to White; the matter-of-fact inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters is noteworthy.

A thought-provoking title for sophisticated readers. (Mystery/fantasy. 10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984848-59-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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