Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Author: Joshua C. Cohen
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Feb 2011)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Danny, a sophomore star on the gymnastics team is one narrator and Kurt, a massive, scarred, stuttering fullback is the other voice. Through them we see the seamy side of high school, of sports, of drugs, of bullying. This is a realistic, gritty look at a group of boys who all hold different kinds of pain and humiliation, and who are swept up in a society that allows bad behavior and turns an apathetic eye on the real struggles of man/boys to survive in a sometimes horrific world.
This book is so raw my heart bleeds for these boys, even the ones who I want to despise. What makes this book so realistic is the emotional ineptitude of these boys who, unlike girls, don't rely on relationships and group talk to solve their problems. They don't have that skill, and as a society, I think we perpetuate the expectation that our boys will be strong, silent men, both physically and mentally. We hold our athletes, even our high school athletes up on a pedestal as if they were somehow more heroic than the boy on the math team, or the boy who may not excel in sports, but is an avid reader, or a video game afficianado. It breeds a social class of the haves and have nots. For boys on the outs, it's especially dangerous because we as parents don't always know how to cue in on the unsaid issues. For some of us parents, we want our child to be the sports star, the popular one. We invest time and money on private coaches. We enjoy the limelight. This book calls us on that.
I think this is a hard hitting, satisfying book for high school males, even reluctant readers should try and tackle it or even listen to it as an audiobook. Half way through the book, I told my own son that if this book did not have a satisfying ending for me, I was going to be REALLY irritated! But as I finish the book I realize that as a mother of boys/men and as an educator, I really need to look at this book as a wake up call to those of us who make our livings by working with young people. This book keeps us on our toes. Now what do we do about this?