As hard as it is to admit...I'm split on this book. On the one hand, I really liked the story. It felt real, thought-provoking, and entertaining all a...moreAs hard as it is to admit...I'm split on this book. On the one hand, I really liked the story. It felt real, thought-provoking, and entertaining all at once. I plowed through it in two days. (And only because at some point I finally had to go to sleep and pick it up the next day.) Still, despite all my love for Gym Candy, a few things did keep tripping me up. Overall though, it’s definitely worth reading. For both sports fans and lovers of gut-wrenching realism, this book delivers.
The sports genre is a personal favorite, and this has some of the best football action I've read. The play sequences are richly crafted. The writing here has just the right amount of detail - enough to paint a clear picture, but not so much that it clogs up the flow of action. Deuker also sprinkled in enough football slang to make it feel authentic while not shutting out non-football readers with too much jargon.
Yet it’s not simply an adrenaline-fueled jock book. As strong as the football scenes are, they are well-balanced by the evolving relationships and emotional chaos that Mick experiences through the story. Mick’s reaction to his friend Drew in the wake of Mick’s beating in the weight room was heartbreakingly real, and my favorite scenes in the book.
My least favorite scenes involve Mick's mom - she's such a one-dimensional character! Her appearances are a clanging, off-key note in an otherwise bright symphony of characters. I just didn’t find her believable or interesting. She’s a plot point, only showing up when Mick needs a counterbalance to his dad’s ambition and testosterone. She’s also unbelievable as a wife to Mick’s dad. Over and over, I found myself looking for some glimmer as to why this woman would ever marry this guy, much less stay with him. (I’m still stumped.) The overall lack of any strong female characters was somewhat disappointing, but wouldn’t have been such an issue if the main female character didn’t feel so clunky.
The ending was a bit rushed, but I was happy with its uncertainty. Leaving it open-ended felt right for the story and more realistic for this subject matter. The remaining questions linger on for readers, just as they do for Mick. It’s a book that will have readers thinking, and talking, long after the last page.
Grade: Not quite on par with Chris Crutcher's best – but it’s in the ballpark. A- (less)