Pop by Gordon Korman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The football pre-season starts next Saturday. Do you want to know why I know this? It isn't because I personally LOVE the gridiron or even know why it is called "gridiron." No, it is because from August to February I live with a football junkie. I get to hear all about the draft, the fantasy league winners and losers, and our TV is taken over by pointless commentary after pointless commentary. Madden0whatever is played non-stop. As a not-particularly sporty person there are only two ways to deal with this situation. One is to protest, to complain, to throw up one's hands and move out. The other is to try and figure out what all the fuss is about. Oh, I still roll my eyes whenever I get treated to a 10 minute diatribe on why Adrian Peterson is the best running back EVAR, but I also watch games and ask questions about why something was called this way or that. Or, what that flag means, or why they got an extra point, etc. I feel like I'm getting to understand a little bit more about the game and its appeal. A little.
Unlike me, football is Marcus Jordan's life. He and his mom have just moved to a new town to escape his fascist dad and so his mom can take pictures of rocks. He starts practicing in a park and forms an eccentric and erratic friendship with a middle-aged guy named Charlie, who is extremely spry and who teaches Marcus more about football in just a few weeks than all of his years on a team. But, Marcus ends up covering for his new friend when he discovers Charlie's erratic behavior isn't just from a quirky personality.
Along the way Marcus barely squeaks onto the football team. He wants to be QB, but his new high school's team is undefeated and record breaking and so Marcus has to battle their unwillingness to mess with status quo and the QB, Troy, who drove them to victory. Troy hates Marcus immediately, and it doesn't help that Troy's on and off again girlfriend is interested in Marcus, and Marcus is VERY interested in Alyssa too.
So immediately we've got a complicated plot, told in a straightforward manner, by a kid who just wants to Do The Right Thing. Marcus and all the characters are well developed. The story draws you in from the first page. The plot never slows down and the conflicts are very real. My only complaint with the book is that the "mystery" of Charlie goes on a little too long. I find it hard to believe Marcus wouldn't have started asking pertinent questions earlier in the story and figuring out answers earlier on too. At any rate, this book has romance, fights, pranks, friendship, brain-injury awareness, kidnapping, and lots and lots of Football. It is the ultimate blitz of a book! Even for a wannabe fan like me.
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