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Running With Lions

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Bloomington High School Lions' star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he's got a coach who doesn't ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team's success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir's trust. But to Sebastian's surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town's streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.

307 pages, Paperback

First published June 7, 2018

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About the author

Julian Winters

17 books865 followers
Julian Winters is the author of the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Award-winning Running With Lions; the Junior Library Guild Selections How to Be Remy Cameron and The Summer of Everything; and the forthcoming Right Where I Left You. A self-proclaimed comic book geek, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta, where he can be found reading or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer..



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Displaying 1 - 29 of 1,622 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
August 19, 2022
Sweet, moving, and full of unexpected treasure, Running With Lions is a coming-of-age novel following bisexual rising senior Sebastian Hughes who's eagerly anticipating his last summer at soccer training camp and settling into his role of team captain. His plan, however, quickly loses its footing when Emir Shah, a Muslim British-Pakistani new recruit and Sebastian’s former best friend, unexpectedly arrives – partly because of Emir's impressive bad attitude and his insistence on keeping his teammates at arm's lengh, and more than partly, because of the long, lean shadow of his and Sebastian's sour parting. Sebastian is left with the responsibility of bringing his team together while feeling the caution of wondering if his attraction for Emir would bloom into something more.

I read this novel in one setting and loved it. Definitely check it out if you're looking for a quick, wholesome read!

Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
663 reviews3,893 followers
July 26, 2018
"And that's the thing, life is sometimes just another day, and sometimes it's moment after moment after moment that only paralyzes you if you let it."

no offense but this was so cute and my cold dead heart wasn't ready to so violently care about these angsty jocks I mean !! Sebastian, a bi disaster really going out there and Doing That, just snatching himself up a man over summer camp? Iconic!

So Running With Lions basically follows a team called The Lions who are at their summer sports camp. The main character Sebastian, wants to make captain but is blindsided by the new addition to the team - former best friend Emir Shah, who's terrible attitude has Sebastian wondering where their friendship went wrong. Whilst struggling to adapt to his new role as captain of the Lions, Sebastian, being the giant gay that he is, also finds himself super attracted to Emir and now he's got double shit to deal with. And it's just SO GOOD FROM THERE.

I seriously loved how cute this was like urgh!!! You know when the couple are so cute you gotta scream into a pillow to contain the feels? thats how I feel about Emir and Sebastian. They're so sweet and I just think they deserve the world. Honestly their whole romance was just pure fun, it had so many cheesy tropes and cliche moments but I LOVED IT. Julian Winters used to be a big fanfic writer and you can tell because it utilises those corny romance tropes so perfectly I love it.

"Why do people let things so precious to them turn into dark, unbearable secrets?"

I also love that this dealt with other issues outside of the romance body positivity and image, bullying, homophobia in sport and so much more came up. Sebastian's arc involving his self-image and his struggle with feeling worthy of being captain was something that really boosted this book from being a romance to something a bit more and I loved that. I also loved the diversity of this book - Sebastian is bi, Emir is a Muslim, Pakistani-American and gay. The team is also made up of two gay boys, one of whom is black.

The relationship between the team was also super well written and I loved these bro's so much. I think showing strong bonds between guys, and how they support eachother in a positive way, is really important. Found family tropes are my favourite and the focus on the team being a found family for all the boys, where they're free to express their sexualities without judgement, really warmed my heart.

I had two main issues with this book which kept it from being a five star read: the writing, and the treatment of one of the characters.

The writing didn't always work for me, I found some sections a bit awkward and clunky and had to reread some parts to make sure I had it write because the transitions were a bit awkward. Julian Winters writes romance and fluff so well but chapter endings and the filler parts felt a bit messy, and I think you can tell he came from a fanfiction background because the transitions felt like the end of a fanfic chapter.

My other issue was the treatment of the only female character, Grey. Throughout the book her love interest Mason was SO mean to her and it was never really called out properly. And the whole "he's mean to you because he likes you" trope was at play, and I really hate that. I think there needed to be more repercussions for Mason's behaviour toward her and less romanticisation of it.

’You’re beautiful.’
Sebastian rolls his eyes. ‘Guys aren’t-‘
‘Hey,’ Emir cuts in. ‘Guys are beautiful. And girls are handsome. Words aren’t gender-specific. Don’t be some jerk asshole about this.”

Overall this was so cute and sweet and jfghdf and I enjoyed reading it so much it's one of those books that just drags you in and forces you to be in a good mood feeling all warm and wholesome inside. It's the perfect feel-good sweet read and I just love this team and Emir/Sebastian SO MUCH. I would love a spin off about Grey or Willie! And I would definitely reread this to get all those warm ooey gooey feelings all over again.
Profile Image for may ➹.
481 reviews1,960 followers
July 20, 2020
The sports gays have disappointed me… this is a day I never saw coming.


Running with Lions takes place (mostly) over the summer at a soccer camp for the high school team dubbed the Lions. Sebastian, a bisexual boy, is faced with the pressure of possibly becoming captain, as well as the scary idea of high school ending with the start of his senior year. Not to mention having to face Emir, a gay Muslim Pakistani-British boy, aka the ex-best friend he hasn’t talked to in years.

This book is definitely character-driven. It is focused on building the characters’ relationships with one another and also the growth of Sebastian. I think if I had read this at another time, when I wasn’t having terrible focus problems and was bored easily because I’ve been at home for months, I might have enjoyed this aspect. I usually love character-driven novels! But it just didn’t capture my attention and took me a full week to read, and it’s also part of the larger issue I had with this book, which was the writing.

I don’t even know how to describe how the writing was so weird and choppy to me. It felt like it was trying to describe certain things or provide a bit of random commentary, but then none of that was actually written with enough detail, making it overall awkward and clunky. Part of the problem was that the dialogue scenes would almost always be like [dialogue] [random commentary] [dialogue] [random commentary] [dialogue], and it was so annoying because most of the time the random commentary was unnecessary and really took me out of the story.

Also, adding on to the idea of random commentary, sometimes there was a line that was probably supposed to be funny but just didn’t make any sense in the context of the situation. For example, “Maybe someone should create a new hashtag: ‘Life’s complicated, but so is math.’” First of all… yeah that’s really a line that made it through editing. Second of all, there is literally no math mentioned anywhere near this?

I don’t know! Maybe I’m being picky! But it was things like that that made me disengage from the story because I was just so ??? at what was going on. I think I also didn’t vibe with the humor—or even the banter between characters, let’s be honest—and so the entire book was made up of instances that were supposed to be funny jokes but failed miserably on me.

You are not defined by who you love.

I’ve gone on for three paragraphs about how abysmal the writing was, which I think says enough on its own about how bad it was. (I didn’t even mention the bad transitions between scenes but it’s fine! We’re moving on!!) What’s even worse is that usually, writing would not hinder my enjoyment this much if I could connect to the characters. But the writing made me feel disconnected from the narrative in general but especially the characters.

First of all, I liked Sebastian, and also Emir, but I just didn’t care. I think this was partly due to my slump, as I felt this same indifference to characters with the last two books I read too, but like I said, the writing created a disconnect between the characters that made it hard to feel like I could be fully invested in them. I think I cared enough to the point that I wanted to see them happy, but I wasn’t particularly inclined to see where their story would go.

Second of all, I just couldn’t grasp the development of Sebastian and Emir’s relationship. It was… so strange to me. Out of nowhere Sebastian wants to help Emir get better at playing soccer, so they spend more time together, and then start getting feelings for each other while still mildly hating each other’s guts. I guess my biggest issue was that in the beginning it was just very weirdly told to the reader that they hated each other, without properly giving the background, thus making the basis of their relationship feel very shallow.

Third of all, the development of the side characters was… not it. I’m going to break down the personalities of each of them so you can see what I mean:

- Will: quiet poetic supportive gay friend
- Mason: asshole
- Carl: bigger asshole
- Hunter: gay? I don’t know
- Zach: the ally
- Gio: Hispanic (his only trait is saying random Spanish lines throughout the book)
- Grey: poor pathetic girl crushing on boy who’s mean to her who then becomes a badass
- Mikey and Rollins: unskilled freshmen (I only remember these names because I just finished the book last night)
- Smith: I don’t really know. he might be one of the freshmen
- Jack: ??? the funny guy ???

It’s a big cast of characters, and they are pretty much all boiled down to basic character traits like this. Some of them don’t even have traits. It might be a controversial opinion, but... I just think that if you have a sports team, the teammates should be developed? I should definitely be able to remember them beyond just one random thing—if I can even come up with one thing. (Also, in a character-driven novel, I think there’s no excuse to not, you know, focus on the characters.)

And finally, my last big complaint: I absolutely hated the way the one (1) female character in this book was treated. Throughout the book, Grey is crushing on Mason, and Mason treats her like garbage. In the end, it’s revealed that—shocker—Mason actually likes Grey, and the reasons why he’s being mean is because he 1) likes her, and 2) is just an asshole.

There are two throwaway parts that say “‘I messed up. Mom would murder me if she knew I acted that way toward a sweet girl.’ He lowers his eyes. ‘Guess I’m just like my dad’” (followed by Sebastian reassuring him that they all have screwed up but Mason is not his dad) and “He’s a dick, but he’s improving. Maybe Grey will do him some good?”

So essentially, treating Grey terribly is supposed to be some weird commentary on how Mason is not an asshole like his dad? Because he treated Grey that way because he liked her and not because he’s inherently bad like his dad? And then, not even less than a page later, we’ve also got the idea that the girl has to come in and help the asshole guy become a better person, which is terrible always, but especially so considering she is the sole female character. I am... not a fan, to say the least!

As soon as puberty hits, all of a sudden people find reasons not to like you: weight, height, acne, sexuality, race, parents’ income, whatever. Confidence is earned by how many flaws you can find in someone else.

All of that aside, this isn’t a completely terrible novel. There are some highlights, like the tackling of issues like bullying and body image issues, and how bullying from your childhood can still affect your self-esteem years later. (We’re going to ignore how, in a character-driven novel, the actual process of growth from these issues is brushed aside at the end and we are told that they are being worked on through counselling.)

I also do love the concept of a safe space for queer kids that the coach has created with this team, because those rarely exist in sports in real life. Themes of friendship are present throughout the book too, and Sebastian also goes on a journey to reconcile with the notion that high school is ending and he has his whole life ahead of him now. And as someone whose high school years are coming to an end vaguely soon too, I liked reading that.

The few positives I had with this book were not enough, though: I really did not enjoy this book. I think it could possibly work for some people, and I also want to acknowledge that I was in a lowkey reading slump when I read this that definitely could have affected my opinion. So, perhaps take my thoughts about the writing with a grain of salt, because you might have fun with the book despite of it! I, unfortunately, did not.


:: rep :: bisexual MC, gay Muslim Pakistani-British LI, gay side character, Black gay side character, Latinx side characters, curious/questioning side characters

:: content warnings :: body shaming/self-image issues, bullying, Islamophobia, homophobia (including f slur)
Profile Image for anna (½ of readsrainbow).
588 reviews1,794 followers
December 31, 2021
rep: bi mc, Pakistani-British Muslim gay li, Black gay side character, gay side character, poc side characters

ARC provided by the publisher.

3.5 ☆

My initial review for Running With Lions basically just said: “this book proves that 1) sports are inherently gay & 2) goalies are the best kind of train wrecks people” and frankly, I stand by this. It’s a contemporary novel about a bunch of teens at a soccer camp, it’s beautifully diverse, and a perfect read for summer.

Our protagonist, Sebastian, is a goalie & if you have ever been into any kind of sport, you know that goalies are always the most wild & weird but also pure people on the team. I think it’s a prerequisite for the position... Sebastian is also bisexual (and yes! they use the b-word!) and honestly, he’s the perfect example of a Disaster Bi. It’s incredible. The amount of secondhand embarrassment you have to deal with in basically every single one of his scenes is overwhelming & every second of it is relatable, because every second of it is rooted in not being straight. It’s such a joy and it’s so refreshing to read about a character like that.

Now the part of the book I loved most, the part that’s the sweetest - is the romance between Sebastian and Emir. Emir is his childhood best friend but they haven’t spoken in years, before he randomly showed up at the camp. Emir is also a gay Muslim - like I said, this book realises the world we live in is a diverse one. I adored Sebastian’s clumsy attempts at making friends with Emir again, how he was desperately trying to hide his very obvious crush but really, it was there for everyone to see.

The romance happens in the heat of summer, somewhere on a soccer pitch or at a running trail in the woods or a bench on front of an ice cream parlor or… This carefree, summery atmosphere is always there, always making things more vivid & more bright. And honestly, it’s the boys’ journey from not-really-enemies-but-definitely-not-friends-anymore to lovers that made me love Running With Lions so much.

This is very much a characters driven novel. I mean, objectively speaking not much really happens - they train, they go on dates, there are some unexpected hospital visits & grand romantic gestures, but overall? It’s not the plot that matters here, it’s the characters. And they’re all so lovely & real! It definitely helps that pretty much none of them are straight? Well, we all know that gay people flock together, but the book also has an explanation for that. Basically, the soccer team is run by a coach who made it very clear he does. not. care. about players’ sexualities, as long as they can play well. And it’s such a CONCEPT! Especially when in real life, this basically doesn’t happen. This team truly is a family & the boys look out for each other at every turn (Sebastian always being the first in line for that). It shows brilliantly in the example of Emir. We meet him as a rather shy recluse but over time he grows into this bunch of sweet fools. Friendships are formed and he truly becomes one of them, part of the family.

But while I loved the book as a whole, there are some little things that bothered me. You could probably chalk all of them up to this being a debut, as well - and a really good, solid one! - but we strive for perfectness in this gay household. The writing can sometimes feel a bit choppy, like there’s too much to say in too few words, and the cuts between scenes are so sudden here & there, that you can get slightly lost. But I think the weirdest part for me was that there really is a lot of showing here, it’s great in that aspect! But then? We would also get the dreaded telling? And it would happen in scenes we already lived and saw clearly enough to make our own conclusions, which makes the inclusion of wordy descriptions even more unnecessary? Telling isn’t even the right term for this phenomena, more like explaining of the showing.

And two other tiny bumps, kind of connected with each other, if you squint. One is the use of an internal monologue of the MC, written in cursive. It might not be a bad thing, per se, more like a personal preference, but yeah, personally I really, really don’t like it & think it’s kind of lazy writing. The other is the fact that Sebastian talks out loud to himself. A lot. Which is cool, I mean I literally do the same… But he does it so much, there comes a point where it feels more like it’s used as a device to describe things rather than just his habit? Like a shortcut in a narrative.

Overall, though, Running With Lions is a wonderful, heartwarming book. It’s packed to the brim with lgbt characters and only a few of them are white and that’s exactly the kind of books we deserve more of. Especially when they’re wholesome and uplifting like this one. Because this is truly a novel about the power of friendship & how having soft, loving people in your life can change it for the better without you even noticing.
Profile Image for chan ☆.
1,052 reviews49.3k followers
July 27, 2018
the sigh heard round the world

i want to preface this review by saying that i think for a first book this was a solid effort and there were a lot of awesome things included. diverse characters, body image issues in male characters, acceptance of lgbtq+ characters, and a whole lot more. but that's kind of all of the nice things i have to say.

to start, this book was written like fan fiction (edit: upon research, this guy got big off of fan fiction, so i guess that makes sense). i do not mean that as an insult, it was just strange to read in an actual novel. the author utilizes third person limited POV and it unfortunately made it hard to connect to the main character, sebastian. we hear about his feelings, but not from him and it just read extremely strange and disjointed.

ok this is the part where i bullet things that i didn't like because i'm feeling lazy

- one of the main characters is the crush recipient of a girl 2 years younger than him and treats her like GARBAGE until the very end of the book
- one of the main characters has body dysmorphia which is discussed ONCE and then is brushed away until the end of the book where we get a one sentence explanation of them speaking to the counselor
- enemies to hook up to deciding to go to the same college together but one of them isn't comfortable with the term boyfriend???
- no nuance or subtlety in characterization
- really lackluster/non existent plot, mostly just emptiness and hookups

all of that to say, i'm giving this book 3 stars and will probably read the next book this author puts out. i think this book will really work for some because of all the positive rep, but that's kind of where it ends for me. i think i unwittingly was comparing this to the all for the game series when i was reading and that definitely did this book a disservice. but overall it lacked the big things i look for in a book.
Profile Image for Silvia .
635 reviews1,404 followers
April 5, 2018
I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

✨ Full review now posted!


*translation for those who don't speak Gay: THIS WAS SO SWEET AND GAY I'M SCREAMING


Right from the description this book sounded right up my alley and it did not disappoint. It’s not a perfect book and you can feel that it’s a debut, but the characters were well rounded and I just wanted to keep reading to see what happened next, and I think the romance was believable. All these elements, paired with how diverse and how awesomely queer this was, made this book a four stars for me.

I want to start by talking about the queer elements in this, because it was my favorite thing ever. Right from the start we’re introduced to Sebastian, who is bisexual and not afraid to say it (well, except to his mom). His best friends are Mason, also bi, and Willie, who’s gay. Throughout the novel we meet at least two more queer side characters, one of which is Sebastian’s love interest (who is also a practicing Muslim), and also one of the coaches is gay and has a husband. This is also not a “everyone is queer and everyone is fully accepted” kind of world. People still have to come out and deal with everyday shit including homophobia, but the soccer team the book follows is open to all queer people and I think that gives a better, more welcoming feeling to the reader because it doesn’t erase our struggles while still delivering a very queer-positive environment.

This is introduction is just to say that this kind of representation was what every queer person deserves in their life.

Moving on to the plot, this is very much character driven and I think all main and side characters were given enough depth for the reader to be able to really feel a connection to them, both individually and as a team. Sebastian is kind of the peacekeeper and he always feels responsible for his team members, Mason is the troublemaker, and so on. I think something like that is really important to have in sport romances and this aspect was done very well.

The romance itself I only started liking after a while. I guess maybe I wanted more of the enemies element but the whole deal with why their former friendship ended was kind of underwhelming. I still enjoyed reading it though and I eventually started shipping it.

I really want more books like these because they feel real and positive and they're truly catered towards queer people. Please support this book when it's out!

TWs: Discussions of body shaming, bullying, Islamophobia, and a scene featuring homophobic taunting/language.

THIS GAYS ONLY EVENT FINALLY HAPPENED and it was also a BR with my buddy reader in crime Rin/Lorenzo

Hold on a minute are you telling me that this is a queer sports romance that features the superior trope aka best friends to enemies to lovers
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,861 reviews5,645 followers
June 11, 2018
DNF at ~40%. No rating.

Sometimes I DNF a book because I didn't enjoy it or I found it boring, but here I am DNFing because I'm just not clicking with the writing style and I don't want to be the ass who gives it a bad review.

I really struggle with third person, present tense (present tense, in general, actually), and when I saw that that's how the story was written, I immediately got worried. However, I was determined to press on. I mean, that cover(!), queer rep in sports(!), a book with many YA, POC characters (!)- I just couldn't pass that up.

However, it just never gelled for me. Maybe it's because YA isn't my usual thing, though I have LOVED and favorited many YAs in the past, or maybe it's because I just didn't connect with the characters (there are a lot, and I had difficulty growing close to any of them). I really, really struggled with the choppy transitions between scenes and whose POV it was at any given time, and I never could sink into the story.

Again, I think this book and books like it is just what we need, but the writing style didn't work for me. Sometimes it's just better to throw in the towel.

*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Tara ☽.
304 reviews251 followers
June 17, 2018
When I think of this book, this what comes to mind: Sunshine, muddy knees, ice cream. Bouncing soccer balls, hand-holding, friendship. Lost boys and soft mouths. Endless, lazy summer.

This book did for soccer what The Raven Cycle did for paranormal-fantasy. AKA, made it Extremely Gay. I am so, so happy that LGBT+ books are being published in genre format. For many years, if we wanted a book with LGBT+ characters, that would be the sole selling point of the book: that it was LGBT+. But now we have fantasy, contemporary, paranormal, dystopian books with queer main characters, and it's not sold solely on that point. It makes me heart so happy.

First of all, if you're expecting this book to basically be The Foxhole Court, you're probably going to be disappointed. I love The Foxhole Court and I love this book, but the fact that they both revolve around sports and have queer characters is where the similarities end. This book stands strongly and uniquely on its own, which is why I loved it so much.

Now, onto the story. Our main character is Sebastian, the star goalie, future-captain of his team and also the absolute pinnacle of a disaster bi. He is the sweetest cinnamon ray of sunshine ever to be graced between the pages of a book, and I challenge you not to love him. He hasn't got everything figured out, in fact he has no idea where he is going or what he is doing, but his teammates look up to him as a leader; he is the glue that holds his team together.

Aside from our ray of sunshine protagonist, we have a beautiful childhood-best-friends - to 'enemies' - to awkward allies - to lovers romance and it was EVERYTHING. The love interest is Emir, a gay Muslim boy, a bit of a loner with a rather acerbic wit. It was so wonderful to read about - Sebastian is basically a Catastrophe With A Crush. This boy is crushing HARD on Emir since basically their first meeting (not technically a first meeting since they were childhood best friends, but they were estranged for a few years) and watching him epically fail at being Smooth was hilarious and endearing.

But this book is not all about the romance. The friendships here are absolutely delightful - we've got a soccer team who are basically a found family. These boys just all love each other so, so much; they're not afraid to be vulnerable and let their best friends see them cry. Of course, they also have their Macho Moments: calling each other 'bro' an inordinate amount of times, punching each other's shoulders, getting into the occasional scrap. But they'll always come back to each other at the end of the day, they will always, always have each other's backs and they will never turn away from each other.

(Sorry I'm getting a bit emotional but I just...*clenches fist*...LOVE stories about beautiful friendships)

There were some side romances that were nice to read about, but I didn't like one romance in particular - the one between Mason and Grey, the coach's daughter. It really rubbed me the wrong way, because this boy treats this girl like dirt for most of the book while she pines after him and makes heart eyes. He's clearly not interested in her for the first three quarters of the book, and acts like an utter wanker towards her just because she likes him. It teaches girls that they should stick by a boy who treats them like shit because it'll eventually pay off in the end. Just...no.

But most of the book was awesome!!!!

I'm not kidding, this book actually made me want to start playing soccer (AKA football in Britain where I'm from. Seriously...don't get me started on 'American football', because I'm sorry but that shit is not football. They barely even use their bloody feet. Real football is what Americans call soccer...but I digress.)

Basically if you love stories about summer camp, friendship and soft romance, you will undoubtedly love this book.

Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
January 12, 2022
"Guys are beautiful. And girls are handsome. Words aren't gender-specific."

I never thought that, when I first met Julian on Bookstagram, I would one day hold a book with his name on it in my hands. But here we go. I am super proud of him and hope to have a whole stack of them one day.
Running With Lions was a fluffy, light-hearted and cute story about friendship and love. It has a great many things to say about antiquated gender and beauty norms, and outdated myths about sexuality. It also proves that it is far from difficult to write a diverse story including more than just your token gay and another token black character.
The book had a few minor flaws that I want to talk about. After roughly 100 pages I had grown weary of the characters, and their repetitive and meaningless banter. The dialogues could have used a bit more editing, in my opinion. Their triviality got on my nerves. Then there were Mason, the main character's best friend, and Grey, the only girl in the soccer camp. She has had a crush on Mason forever, but the way Mason treated her was outrageous. What bothered me even more, was how no one seemed to mind his shitty behaviour. Luckily, at the end of the book, the tide turned. Grey realised that he did not deserve her attention and Mason realised what an ass he was. I am glad that I kept reading, though. After those first 100 pages, I started enjoying it much more and finished the book in one go.
I also got annoyed by how often I had to read a sentence along the lines of "and then he playfully punched him in his shoulder". What is it with all that punching? On one hand, this book promotes a group of soccer fanatics that are seemingly liberated of all this stereotypical manly behaviour...so why do they have to punch each other all the time? Why are they so obsessed with that? It got to a point where I wanted to punch someone (for real, not just for play) every time I had to read about it. Here, again, I think some more editing would have helped. I also had the feeling that a couple major plot points were a bit overdramatic - characters had made a mountain out of a molehill, and this tiny molehill now served as a turning point for the book, which rendered it a little unrealistic.

Overall, this book is proud and positive. It shows a wide range of characters that are perfect because they are beautifully flawed. They love one another and always have each other's backs. The perfect summer read for everyone who enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

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Profile Image for ✧ k a t i e ✧.
183 reviews179 followers
June 30, 2018
"Just because people create rules doesn't mean those are your rules.

Um, why isn't there more hype around this book? Cause there should be. Everyone needs to read this book.

This book was so fucking adorable. Sebastian and Emir are officially my children that I will protect at all costs. Also, Willie and Grey are precious and deserve the world. I absolutely loved the characters in this book.

The romance was so adorable (that is a word that is going to be used multiple times because that's what this book is). I am such a sucker for the enemy to lovers trope (see: my obsession with Neil and Andrew from The Foxhole Court ) and Sebastian and Emir were no exception with me.

The only thing I didn't like was the beginning. I felt super overwhelmed with all the characters and it took me forever to remember who's who. Also, I thought this was going to be super super similar to The Foxhole Court, and it's not. I was initially disappointed, but that quickly changed the further I got in the book and the more I got attached to the characters. But regardless of my initial feelings and assumptions, this book was incredible.

Why are so many people sleeping on this book???? Like y'all are missing out on some good shit. This book is so good. It is so adorable. And more people need to pick it up. More people need to read this book.

Profile Image for rin.
411 reviews488 followers
April 6, 2018
tragic news are: i didn't click with this book

it's a character driven story and it's very diverse. diversity wise, there are gay & bisexual rep, moc and the li is a practising muslim. the story itself is pretty cute and i did like the characters, sebastian especially, bc he's a disaster bi and i feel him.

my personal problem is. the writing. it absolutely isn't for me. i feel like it was too awkward and bumpy and all over the place. i just never really connected with it and had to take a break every five pages or so, because it didnt read for me like something whole. there were moments where i just couldn't grasp how one thing led to another or how some actions resulted in their outcomes.

however, i know it's a debut novel, that's why im not so hard on it i guess. the story overall was pretty fun, i just couldn't enjoy it. gotta keep my eye on julian winters though.

also tbvh it's not really friends to /enemies/ to lovers lbr

second br w silvia but also!! im gay and i need me some sports gays


average brain: enemies to lovers
galaxy brain: best friends to lovers
exploding galaxy brain: best friends to enemies to lovers
Profile Image for Yusra  ✨.
249 reviews510 followers
Want to read
June 11, 2018
the cover is so cute i cannot
the cover
Profile Image for Lara.
169 reviews63 followers
November 14, 2019
My review

“You are not defined by who you love.”

This book was so unbearably cute and I’m gushing from the adorableness. Running With Lions is perfect to ease one’s mind and remind them of happiness and family, leaving a feeling of senseless fulfillment and adoration. If you’re looking for an amazing sports team or romantic summer story, you’ve come to the right place.

“Acceptance has an amazing effect on people who pretend they don't need it.”

Growing up and getting around in high school was far from easy for Sebastian. Among anxiety, self-consciousness about his body and bullying he’s been putting up his entire childhood, the hardest hit was when his best, and only, friend Emir moved to London. A high school is a difficult place, especially for those who are different, and yet Sebastian found his salvation in a soccer team – a place where everyone is welcome and has a chance to prove themselves, places where they are supported and not submitted to cruel judgment. The team gave him friends and support, purpose and a future – something to dream of and something to work for.

“The future is only grim because people see it that way. It's unpredictable. Life is a summer storm of insecure thoughts. There's an umbrella of precautions to prevent insecurity, but it doesn't always keep the rain out of your face.”

His last summer and pre-season practices are going nicely; the team is getting together and there are pretty big chances of him being named the new captain, but there is a new recruit who turns out to be no one else but Sebastian’s childhood ex-friend. The team needs to be ready for the season, but the tension on the court seems to be coming straight from Emir - who has talent, but also a temper that doesn’t bode well with anyone on the team. The match with Spartans is coming close, but Sebastian’s uncertainty and confusing feelings do nothing to help him get things in line.

“Why do people let things so precious to them turn into dark, unbearable secrets?”

I am really really glad I loved this book so much because I know I usually don’t like low-stake plot-deprived novels stuffed with romance, but this was so fluffy and full of amazing characters just being awesome and doing sports. I love sports and I love seeing them change someone’s life. I enjoyed immensely reading about Lion’s practices and the team’s lively adventures, their inspirational coaches and crazy adventures. This book is full of little things that actually mean so much – like struggling with self-confidence, hardships of immigration and even dealing with the desperate crush. Sebastian and Emir were adorable, but I loved every single character in the book, especially Mason and Grey - they’re my personal favorites.

Profile Image for TS.
329 reviews60 followers
August 2, 2018
the most unfortunate part about this book is that I feel like I would've liked it so much more if it was written by someone else D;

also, there is good extra-parm-on-my-pasta cheese and uncomfortable I'm-choking-on-my-panini-melt cheese, and the cheesiness in this book felt like the latter to me

2.5 stars

but the diversity in this book is brilliant so let's all recognize that!!! also I feel like cheese levels are hugely subjective so that should be acknowledged; just because it wasn't to my tastes doesn't mean it won't be to yours. (for the curious: there is a Pakistani Muslim gay love interest, a bi MC and many side characters are gay, bi, questioning or curious and one character is black)

me every day since finding out about this book over a month ago: checking to see if my ARC request has been approved, obsessively stalking the gr page to see if any new reviews have been posted, gazing wonderingly at the cover, daydreaming about how good this book will be

Profile Image for Moony Eliver.
305 reviews160 followers
September 16, 2018
DNF @25%.
I'm disappointed, but I can’t connect with this one at all. The characters are one-dimensional, and the dialogue and reactions are weird and off-putting. It seems like every spoken line is followed by a sentence or two of unnecessary explanation. These appear to be problems inherent in the writing, rather than something that might get better as the book progresses, so I’m calling it. I might have dragged out that decision for longer but this is a library checkout, so I’m just taking it back.
Profile Image for Romie.
1,075 reviews1,273 followers
June 10, 2018
Why do people let things so precious to them turn into dark, unbearable secrets?

This book got me so soft.

I think everybody has been thinking it so, yes, this book gave me Foxhole Court vibes. Some very strong TFC vibes. I loved it. I'm a sucker for lgbtqiap+ and sport stories. I don't know why, I just always seem to love them.

This is the story of Sebastian, he lives for soccer and plays as a goalie. Every single summer since he made it to the team, he spends his entire month of August at Camp Haven with his teammates, training for their upcoming soccer season. This year is a bit different though, considering his ex childhood best friend Emir has been recruited by Bastian's coach, and he and Emir haven't talked since then. Bastian is pretty sure Emir hates him even though he has no idea why. This year is also different because it's Bastian's last year before he graduates high school and has to decide what he wants to do after that. Ain't that scary.

I loved this story. I loved the team. I'm not a huge fan of soccer, one could say it's even my least favourite sport. But this team of bros loving each other? Omg yes give me more. When Coach Patrick created his team, he decided he would make it a safe space for people to be themselves. It means this team is made of straight, gay, bi, and curious guys. And none of them are being judged for that. This team is a family, they support each other no matter what, and sure, they like to joke around, but they never try to hurt each other. I loved this so much. This team is diverse and inclusive, these guys may look like machos in training, but they're so much more than what they look like. They're supportive, they're caring and kind, and I loved every single one of them.

I loved that this story focused on Sebastian's feelings. He knows he's bisexual, he's out to his friends, but not to his family, and we get to see how he feels about that. He's not ashamed of his sexuality, he's not wondering if he's bi or not, it's not about him figuring out he's bi. He knows he is and says it explicitly several times. But Sebastian battles with his own feelings about what it means to be masculine, battles with how he perceives his own body. Reading about a guy who's not confident in his body and tries to open about it, that's something we need a lot more in books. A lot of teenagers aren't confident in their bodies, and we don't talk about it enough. Guys need to have books in which they can see that they're not alone in this struggle. There was an important conversation about self-love and body acceptance, and I loved it so damn much.

The evolution of Emir and Sebastian's relationship was everything to me. These two used to be best friends when they were little. They were both rejected and bullied, and they found an ally in each other. But Emir left for London with his family when his grandma fell sick, and when he came back a few months later, Bastian had ‘moved on’ or so it seemed. Reading about them trying to find their way back to each other was so heartwarming. I believed in them and in the intimacy they had as kids, it was just there for everybody to see, it felt real. I loved that Emir felt comfortable enough with Bastian to talk about what it's like for him being Muslim and gay, I loved that Bastian felt like he could talk about being bisexual to Emir. I loved these two dorks so damn much. I loved their friendship, I loved that none of them tried to be better than the other. They just helped each other. I loved that they talked about what they wanted and didn't want. Gosh, I love respectful boyfriends.

I'm soft for all these boys. That's it. I said it.

Profile Image for kav (xreadingsolacex).
177 reviews346 followers
July 20, 2020

running with lions and julian winters are both so important to me :')

everything i said in my original review of this stands true after this re-read. i re-read this book as one of my comfort reads for BBS this month, and this TRULY is a comfort read of mine. RWL truly shines the brightest light on the darkest days.

even though this novel does tackle some hard-hitting topics such as racism and bullying / body-shaming at times; at it's core, it is a summer rom-com about a band of brothers that are brought together because of their love of soccer. also the hate-to-love m|m romance is really damn great as well.

anyway, this book and its author make me very happy :')

- - -
Book Bound Society July 2018 BOTM

Julian Winters needs to meet me in the parking lot because that man just spent the last three hours playing with my emotions.

Running With Lions is a phenomenal novel, and it is downright unbelievable to believe that it is a debut.

Running With Lions is a young-adult contemporary novel about a soccer team, a band of brothers, that very casually includes diversity and features an unbearably adorable romance. Our main character, Sebastian, is bisexual, while his best friends' Willie and Mason are gay and experimenting, respectively, and the love interest, Emir, is British-Pakistani and gay. There are more marginalized identities represented among supporting characters, but if I had to list how well Winters did with representation, we'd be here for years.

First of all, let's discuss this soccer team. I am not a sports person, but the way sports was incorporated into this novel was EVERYTHING. At the beginning of this novel, soccer was all Sebastian had. Soccer saved Sebastian. Soccer to Sebastian is what reading is to me, and it was so brilliant to see that in a novel.

Not to mention this team truly is a family. The bond between these teens is unbreakable and they truly would murder for each other, and that was such a beautiful friendship to see.

And now, let's discuss Sebastian.

How do I even begin to discuss the literal perfect protagonist? Sebastian's character arc was such a powerful aspect of this novel. Though this novel had a plot and had a romance, it was also about Sebastian finding himself and seeing his journey was brilliant.

But something I really want to touch on Sebastian being a survivor of bullying and body-shaming. I had no idea about this aspect going into the novel, but some of you will know that I was bullied growing up and have struggled greatly with body image after being treated badly for being fat growing up. Seeing Sebastian deal with the after-effects of bullying was something I related to so strongly - there was actually a point in the novel where I flat-out started crying because of how much I saw myself in Sebastian still struggling with something left over from mean kids years ago.

And then there's Emir, the greatest love interest in all the land. Emir is also a survivor of bullying for his skin color, religion, and sexuality. To see him discuss the frankness with which people bullied him because of how he looks was so moving and impactful. He was brutally honest about his experiences growing up of color and as a Muslim and that was everything.

And the way Sebastian and Emir came together was unforgettable. This was a friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romance and it perfectly executed. The connection between Sebastian and Emir was monumental and it really was true love. And seeing them navigate so many firsts in a complicated relationship made everything even more exquisite. The words I type here cannot even begin to describe how much their relationship moved me.

And finally, the writing. Listen, third person present tense is such a rare form of writing and such a difficult form of writing and Winters executed it perfectly. This truly was the voice of a growing teen, but it also wasn't too childish. It was, like everything else in this novel, perfect.

All these words don't do justice to Winters' talent and the impact of this novel. All I can do is strongly urge you to read it.

Note: This is also the only book I've read with content/trigger warnings available on the first page and that is HUGE.
Profile Image for Norah Una Sumner.
851 reviews446 followers
July 21, 2018
This was such a pleasant surprise!

Even though the writing was a bit choppy and there isn't really that much plot to it, I really enjoyed it and found myself being a bit teary eyed in the end. Sebastian is literally the definition of a chaotic bi™ and I loved him for that. It was a bit weird reading about someone who has the same name as one of your close friends from school but Emir won me over and I literally just wanted to protect him and hug him and wrap him in a fuzzy blanket... Okay, I got really soft. But please, a gay British-Pakistani practicing Muslim? I decided to protect him with my life the moment he appeared.

The... whole Grey situation is really what bothered me the most about this book and I wish she wasn't both portrayed and treated like such throughout the book. She deserves better and I wish her character wasn't semi developed over her one sided crush on a really rude boy.

The diversity, the really nice queer rep is definitely what really got me and what made me feel so warm and what made me enjoy this book. There are also mentions of tons of emo songs I still bop to so that's a big plus!
Profile Image for Cassandra.
694 reviews86 followers
June 13, 2018
"Why do people let things so precious to them turn into dark, unbearable secrets?"


Ever since I saw the first tidbit of leaked information on this book (I can't remember whether it was the cover, the synopsis, or even just a blurb) I was in love. Like, I pre-ordered this the day it was listed on Amazon. A YA summer story with sports and a team of LGBTQ inclusive boys? It looked funny, cute, and precious.

And it was all of those things.

It was funny. It was cute. It was precious.

Mainly though, Sebastian was all of these things. It's been a very long time since I found a main character I adored so wholeheartedly. Sebastian was kind, he was honest, and he was so damn lovable. Seriously. This boy is my child and anyone with anything negative to say about him can fight me.

Before this review turns into a love letter to Sebastian, (and it will) let me share the other things this book did right. Back to my first point, it's a sports novel about an LGBTQ inclusive soccer team. That alone puts it on a pedestal. Add in the cast of Emir, a gay Muslim teen, Willie, another gay boy with a heart of gold, Mason, a questioning and talented player who can be an occasional asshole, Hunter, a gay boy from a religious family, and all of their boys who double as annoying brothers and avid allies. Not to mention, our bisexual and bashful angel in disguise, Sebastian.

This is a tad random, but I needed to put this in here: this book handles body image issues with boys. I repeat: this book handles body image issues that boys have. Every novel I've read that even touches on that topic... that has been the main plot. Every novel I've read where a girl has body image issues? It's just been a subplot. Finally, a book that acknowledges that both boys and girls are affected by the harmful images sent out by our media. Especially, the unrealistic body standards for male athletes. I couldn't have loved this precious book any more if I tried. It covers all of its bases and more.

Has the diversity of this made your heart happy yet? I'm still glowing and it's been days.

If my review hasn't convinced you to buy this right here, right now, just read some of the other beautifully written tomes of praise my friends wrote. I'm not the only one who fell in love with this book.

This is to sports what Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is to theater: a novel that you need to read whether you're in the community or not because you will freaking love it.
Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
689 reviews251 followers
June 23, 2019
The concept of Running With Lions immediately drew me in, and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

This novel follows the Bloomington High School Lions, a soccer team that is accepting of anyone that wishes to try out, no matter their race or sexuality. The Lions’ star goalie Sebastian Hughes is a high school senior, and spending the summer of his last year at the soccer teams training camp. To his own surprise, Sebastian’s childhood friend Emir Shah shows up. They haven’t seen each other in several years, but Sebastian is determined to reconnect with his old friend. As the weeks go by, something sparks between the two boys.

Being a debut novel for Julian Winters, my expectations weren’t very high for this book. This isn’t to say that the writing was exceptional, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. A story with characters that never fail to put a smile on my face.

I used to attend summer camp every year, so the atmosphere of a soccer training camp was one that intrigued me, I thought Winters captured the feeling of everything perfectly. I couldn’t help being soaked up in the sense of summer, the overwhelming happiness that comes with hanging out with friends among shared cabins and endless sky.

The characters felt so true to what teenagers are like now of days, I could really appreciate that Julian Winters didn’t exaggerate any characteristics or tendencies. Sebstian, the protagonist, was such a beautiful main character to follow, some of his traits were similar to mine, making him easy for me to connect with.

Then we have the romance, which I adored. It didn’t feel to rushed or slowed, making it easy to read about. Once again, the setting and atmosphere added something unique to the relationship, the circumstances were different to anything I’ve read.

This was a really great book for the summer, and a great debut novel too. Running With Lions is a wonderful story.
Profile Image for •°• gabs •°•.
248 reviews199 followers
December 21, 2018
i suddenly like soccer.
there are a few things that irked me but i love these kids so much and i'm so soft!! i'm really soft y'all, my heart is full.

ALSO this is a debut novel which???? amazing. i can't wait for julian's next book hsgadhadvah
Profile Image for Silke.
154 reviews
November 11, 2018
This book put a massive smile on my face and that’s all it took for me to love it. This was so freaking cute and romantic and so relatable. I recognized myself in a lot of the issues Sebastian was struggling with throughout the book. I loved how all the characters in here felt like one big family.
This book radiated happiness to me and I enjoyed it so much! It’s the perfect lighthearted read for summer with lots of amazing diverse characters who I honestly want to be friends with so badly.

Profile Image for Katie.dorny.
981 reviews502 followers
January 14, 2019
This book was just a little bit too cutesy for me. I’m not the biggest cliche romance person. It’s just not my favourite thing to read in the majority of a book.
It was well written and had diverse characters which I loved. But it also seemed to throw so much in without unpacking and exploring it as much as I would have liked.
Emir and Sebastian are childhood friends until Emir leaves for the uk. They reunite at football camp, and things kinda go hit and miss from there.
It was enjoyable, but I didn’t love it.
Profile Image for - ̗̀ DANY  ̖́- (danyreads).
257 reviews93 followers
June 11, 2018
. : ☾⋆ — 4 ★

i was deceived!!!! i was led to believe this was an enemies to lovers trope when it was actually a best friends to enemies to reluctant acquaintances to awkward buddies to bashful pining to intense but shy attraction TO LOVERS!!!!!!!! which is one hundred times better than enemies to lovers!!!!!!

i’m not gonna lie, i’m a weak bitch when it comes to found family plots. add in some sports, and i absolutely melt. i don’t want to do the obvious and compare Running With Lions to The Foxhole Court because in my opinion they were nothing alike?? just like everybody else on goodreads, i assumed this was gonna be a much cheesier and less violent version of TFC, but it really wasn’t?? i’m extremely happy to say that Running With Lions stood on its own. it was one of my most expected releases of the year, so i’m truly relieved that we’re out of the woods with this one.

for a (kinda) self published/indie debut, i think the writing was pretty good!! the third person pov was a little confusing at times since there were SO many characters around all the time, but nothing too bad. speaking of the number of characters in this book, and despite the aforementioned confusion, i think julian winters did a FANTASTIC job at making each character’s voice a little distinct from the rest, otherwise this book would’ve been a pain to get through.

there was only one little issue i had with the book, and it’s the reason why i’m giving this book four stars instead of five. bilingual characters. hear me out, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a diverse cast of characters!! it’s actually pretty realistic to have a cast of mostly non-white and non-straight characters!!! BUT. if you’re gonna have two latino/hispanic characters, and one pakistani character, all of whom have a second language that they use within the book, i think it’s only fair to do just a little bit of research. bilingual people don’t “forget to switch to english”. we don’t suddenly start speaking in our native language and then go oh lmao excuse me, “I can’t turn it off sometimes.” (an actual line of the book, said by our pakistani character). we meet one of the hispanic characters when he spews out a line in spanish, and the main character explains: “He’s developed a habit of switching between languages since his parents, originally from Puebla, speak exclusively in Spanish at home.” THAT’S NOT HOW BILINGUAL PEOPLE FUNCTION. as a native spanish speaker, it was actually kind of offensive (but it’s not that deep yall don’t drag me). i tried to look up if julian himself is bilingual and couldn’t find anything, so i’m going to assume that research failed us on this one. i read a bunch of reviews and nobody mentioned this inaccurate representation of bilingual people so I MIGHT AS WELL.

other than that, though, this book was super cute and a perfect summer read. the positive notes on diversity, sexuality, race, religion, and even body image, are always a nifty addition to your everyday contemporary. and honestly adding in a bunch of soft ass gay and bi boys doesn’t hurt, if i do say so myself!!!!!
Profile Image for Connor.
687 reviews1,656 followers
June 19, 2020
Maybe 3.5. I really liked seeing how accepting (for the most part) this team was. I loved seeing young athletes comfortable being out and true to who they are to their team without fear of being ostracized for it. I always like to see a bi main character, so I was on board with following Sebastian figuring things out. I think this book really explores that even though you can be out and comfortable with one group of people, it still can be daunting to continue to come out to other people in your life, which you'll have to continue to do for the rest of your life.

It also addressed that there can be a big difference between coming out and then actually dating someone that outwardly shows what your current identity may be. Sebastian knowing he's bi is one step, but allowing himself to be open and intimate with another guy can be intimidating.

There are a lot of pop music references, so those can be a hit or miss. There is also a lot of shoulder punching and bros/mans, so if that's going to grate on you, be aware.

I will say that the soccer element of the story seemed off to me. I know terms and norms can vary from place to place, but it seemed like there was a checklist of terms that Julian Winters wanted to include. The descriptions of practices seemed a bit off as well, and I was shocked that there were three coaches for a high school team that all were specialized for a specific training aspect. I played for the best club team in my state when I was in high school and we ended up with two (which didn't even coach us at the same time). From the description of their school's athletic program, it doesn't seem to be very robust. Additionally, I would be gobsmacked (I just think that word is funny - I'm not 100 years old) to learn of any soccer player wearing a jockstrap, but the characters talk about them regularly? Why does their locker room smell like jockstraps? I have no idea. It should smell like FOUL shoes and potentially shinguards. Soccer equipment gets ripe!

Some scenes seem pretty forced, and the dialogue can be as well. A lot of the problems that pop up literally come out of nowhere so that we can have scenes where characters make nice. I mean, I like a good dramatic conversation that results in some bros hugging it out and maybe sometimes more, but I want it to flow and make sense.

I enjoyed this in the end, but I had quite a few things that kept pushing me out of the story, unfortunately. I'm looking forward to checking out more from Winters in the future though!
Profile Image for Bárbara.
1,130 reviews71 followers
September 8, 2018
Okay... This was an interesting reading experience.

I didn't love this book, and it's killing me. I liked it, but sometimes barely.

The writing was its weakest aspect, and when that fails, it's kind of a miracle if everything else doesn't fall apart. I think the story was too ambitious for the author to properly tackle in a balanced way: it feels strongly as if the intention was to address a handful of topics, but the pace never allowed to go in full depth to any at all. The only clear picture I got by the end (and it took forever to come together) was Sebastian's character arc. The rest of the things the book tried to address remain blurred pictures to me. It's like somebody started to tell me a story but then couldn't make up their mind as to whether it was worth telling me and kept me begging for details. In one word: unresolved. Unfinished (okay, those are two words, my bad).

What do I mean when I say the writing was inconsistent? The story resorts to way too much telling and not enough showing. And sometimes the show doesn't match the tell (especially with the aspects of Sebastian's allegedly tight friendship with two characters he kept neglecting throughout the story in favor of Emir, who most of the times seemed desperate to shake Sebastian off).

Also, personal impression but for a book allegedly about football (I'd be caught dead before I call it soccer), there was little focus in the narrative about that and way too much on hooking up and goofing off. I wish there had been much more balance.

I admit, I struggled with the first half of the book, but the second half felt much stronger, like the author had started to find the footing of his story and was trying to steer it towards that desired point in the distance. However, complains aside (because I had them throughout the reading process), I have to hand this to Winters: Sebastian's character was pretty nicely developed, and he felt real as a boy his age. It was enfuriating sometimes, but even that was somewhat of a good thing. His character was definitely the strongest point of this book. I could easily see my teenage self in some aspects of him (and let me tell you how specially awesome I found the aspect of his issues with his image, or his insecurities about his lack of direction; it really spoke to me- so I can't be anything but grateful for that storyline existing).

Last, a quick, super mega quick mention to how I wish certain tropes could Thanos-snap cease to exist. Grey was a fabulous character with lots of potential that deserved way better. And given that she was the most prominent female character around and was treated barely better than a trashcan, I'm almost thankful that Sebastian's mom and sister weren't around more (I was also tired by the second time Sam's name was brought up because it was always to point out how meaningless Sebastian's relationship with her was- I was honestly expecting at any given moment that Sebastian would realise he wasn't bi after all, that he was gay and that was why he never felt anything towards Sam, but no, that relationship just kept being pointlessly brought up, so that was nice *sarcasm*).

OKAY. I'm done, I promise. I know, I know everything I said pretty much screams two stars, but I'm just in a venting mood today, I swear I enjoyed it more than it shows with so much bitching. This review is weird and a mess, and if that isn't a reflection of who I am then I don't know what could be more accurate. I'm off.
Profile Image for Francesca.
590 reviews2 followers
September 23, 2018
This was sweet and cute and offered a very well done look into growing up and being a usian teenager. That said I thought the pacing was slightly disjointed and the 3rd person present narrative voice irritated me to no end. If its purpose was to create a sense of urgency it didn't work for me, in fact it kind of slowed it down some.
It also left me feeling that it was trying to do so many things: young people growing up and having to make decisions about their future, social commentary about sports and sexuality, religion and inclusion, coming out, friendship. I think it realistically portrayed the mental status of the main character: the having to make choices, the pressure related to these, the feelings of being in love and at the same time not knowing what that means or entails. But the rest I felt it was a little superficial.
The 12YO is reading this after me and I am keen to know what he thinks.
The book is also intrinsically way too usian for my taste, which in fairness is preposterous given that I picked it and knew it was a usian book. I don't understand the pressure these kids are under to know what they want to do with their lives at 17 - it is completely ridiculous to me.
Then there is the football: I am (originally) from Rome, every other Sunday my father would take me to the Roma matches, we played it in parks and on the street. It was a way of life for us and this is supposedly a book about football but I felt it stayed firmly on the background and it could have been anything else: just like a background, a setting against which to develop the plot.
I enjoyed the book but I never really fell in love with it. Maybe it is cultural - I am finding it more and more difficult to enjoy usian contemporaries; maybe it is an age thing - I recognise that the book will be important to its intended audience but I felt it was a bit too superficial.

All in all this is a lovely, sweet look at teenagers on the cusp of growing up, it was enjoyable and it kept me good company on a lazy Saturday. I would definitively recommend reading it especially to teenagers. Understanding and embracing diversity start with books like this.
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