The story will resonate with those on both sides of the debate about the role of youth football in society, and the unusual...

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GAME CHANGER

A young athlete lies in a coma while his family and community try to determine the cause of his injury.

Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood collapsed following an intense football practice. At first, the focus is on his injury and the concerns of his family and friends for his recovery. Counselors are brought in to help them with the trauma. The coach’s daughter, Camille, makes a social media page to encourage positive thoughts, but some of the posters hint that something other than a tough hit at practice caused his injury. The doctors encourage family and friends to talk to Teddy, and readers learn much through these comments. Teddy’s family is at odds. His mother, who lives apart, did not want her son to play football, while his dad supported his sports involvement. Also interspersed are Teddy’s thoughts as he lies in the hospital: “This is what life is / Life is football / Football is life.” This nontraditional narrative, using conversations, interview transcripts, text messages, hospital reports, and other documents, skillfully peels back the elements of the mystery. The issues of football’s violence are presented, but the book’s real strength is the depiction of the culture behind it. There are few descriptions to indicate the ethnic makeup of the characters (Teddy’s eyes are described as blue), implying the white default.

The story will resonate with those on both sides of the debate about the role of youth football in society, and the unusual storytelling technique sets it apart from most sport fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3143-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay.

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GHOST

From the Track series , Vol. 1

Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw feels like he’s been running ever since his dad pulled that gun on him and his mom—and used it.

His dad’s been in jail three years now, but Ghost still feels the trauma, which is probably at the root of the many “altercations” he gets into at middle school. When he inserts himself into a practice for a local elite track team, the Defenders, he’s fast enough that the hard-as-nails coach decides to put him on the team. Ghost is surprised to find himself caring enough about being on the team that he curbs his behavior to avoid “altercations.” But Ma doesn’t have money to spare on things like fancy running shoes, so Ghost shoplifts a pair that make his feet feel impossibly light—and his conscience correspondingly heavy. Ghost’s narration is candid and colloquial, reminiscent of such original voices as Bud Caldwell and Joey Pigza; his level of self-understanding is both believably childlike and disarming in its perception. He is self-focused enough that secondary characters initially feel one-dimensional, Coach in particular, but as he gets to know them better, so do readers, in a way that unfolds naturally and pleasingly. His three fellow “newbies” on the Defenders await their turns to star in subsequent series outings. Characters are black by default; those few white people in Ghost’s world are described as such.

An endearing protagonist runs the first, fast leg of Reynolds' promising relay. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5015-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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