"Rabbit" Labelle loves football, but the tiny, rural Maine town where he lives isn't big enough to support a team. After his father moves the family to the big, bad city, Rabbit finally gets his chance to play the sport he loves the most, but he must also confront the dangers of "Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin." Since it's 1967 and cities are torn by racial turmoil, this includes his father's greatest "the Negroes." Rabbit, who'd been the most popular kid in Plainfield, Maine, struggles to make friends and wonders if he'll even survive. Only football can save him. "David H. Hendrickson is one of my favorite writers." -- USA Today bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch
David H. Hendrickson’s first novel, Cracking the Ice, was praised by Booklist as “a gripping account of a courageous young man rising above evil.” He has since published five additional novels, including Offside, which has been adopted for high school student required reading.
His short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies, including multiple issues of Fiction River.
Hendrickson has published well over one thousand works of nonfiction ranging from sports journalism to humor and essays. He has been honored with the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award and the Murray Kramer Scarlet Quill Award.
Offside by David H. Hendrickson is a fictional story about a boy who witnesses many problems such as bullying and racism. David “Rabbit” Labelle is a boy who is very passionate about football. He lives in a small town in Maine where everyone knows his name. He can't play football because of the small number of students. His dad gets a promotion and suddenly, everything starts to change. He has to move away to Lynn, Massachusetts or as he calls it Lynn, Lynn, the City of Sin. He is afraid to move into a town with mixed races, especially blacks. When he moves, he attends Lynn English High School and on his first day on the bus ride, he gets his lunch money taken away from him by a school bully named Smitty. He goes from being the most popular kid to a kid with no friends. Throughout the book, it teaches us how hard it is to fit into a new school. This book is very fast which makes the reader enjoy the book. The author uses that as his advantage to not bore the reader. I certainly enjoyed the book because it has true events that happen to any high school student such as bullying or liking a girl. I also think that the stories inside of the book are superb. It goes from him moving to impressing coaches and then gets bullied. It also shows how Rabbit, a name that was given to him by his friends because of his speed, didn’t let bullying affect how he played football. Lastly, I liked how the book highlights the problems that happened in the city. It shows how Lynn can sometimes be very dangerous. When I picked up the book at the library, I thought that it was going to be boring but as I read the first chapter, it was the opposite. One thing that I didn’t like about the book was that in the beginning, when he was really worried about moving which made me start to lose interest. Overall, I thought the book was great and I would recommend it to any high school student.
I am not a sports fan. While I can enjoy entertainment with a sports theme, it has to get past my ignorance of the given sport and stay interesting.
The movie, "Remember the Titans," did just that. And, in a similar way, so did Dave Hendrickson's novel "Offside." Set in the city of Lyn (which our young protagonist Rabbit hears is "Lyn, Lyn, city of sin") in 1967, Rabbit, who had always lived in a small Maine town, is forced to deal with the city's problems which include bubbling racial unrest.
Rabbit, a small teenager who is wild about sports, talks his way onto the junior varsity football team despite his size and inexperience. Here is where he escapes the tensions at home with his father, a man dedicated to his job and fearful of "the Negros." Here is where he struggles to find his place at a new school, where friends are hard to come by.
His journey is captivating and well worth the read. The sport terms are explained just enough that I had a clue what was going on, but not so much I grew bored. I got very fond of Rabbit, even when there were times I thought he could use a smack upside the head.
I suspect a young man or woman who loves sports would get more out of the book than I did. But even if you aren't a sports fan and just want a good story about a teenager finding his way in his life, this is a good book to pick up.