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Cracking the Bell

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Friday Night Lights meets Concussion in this powerful and important novel by Geoff Herbach, author of the Stupid Fast series, exploring the dangerous concussion crisis in football through the eyes of a high school team captain.

Isaiah loves football. In fact, football saved Isaiah's life, giving him structure and discipline after his sister's death tore his family apart. Bu
Hardcover, 247 pages
Published September 10th 2019 by Katherine Tegen Books
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  158 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Matthew Landis
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a book about football--not really. It's about surviving apocalyptic loss and doing so without being miserable--or in Isaiah's case, falling into nihilistic criminality or militant (and potentially dangerous) adherence to the structural safety of football.

Precision subtlety is a hallmark of Herbach's writing (Stupid Fast series, Hooper), and has helped me enjoy "the sports book" again. Geoff also just gets real life authenticity. His characters are always flawed, likeably unlikable, d
Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I love YA sports novels and Geoff Herbach knows exactly how to write one that is on-trend, poignant, realistic, gritty and doesn’t pull its punches. And that’s exactly what I got from Cracking The Bell.

Isaiah lives for football. It’s what keeps him busy and away from the temptations that come with down time. It saved him when he fell into bad habits and did things he wishes he could forget. It helps keep what remains of his broken family together. It keeps him from mourning too deeply his siste
Many thanks to EdelweissPlus and the publisher for providing me with an eARC of this title for review. All opinions are my own.

I was so very excited to see that Herbach had another sports-themed book coming out after I fell in love with his novel Hooper last year. This book tackles football and football-related head injuries, while also dealing with a family's grief process, the sadness of not knowing what to do next, and the pain that comes when you have to realize you can no longer continue o
Gary Anderson
Nov 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although Geoff Herbach’s young-adult novels are consistently satisfying, his new book Cracking the Bell digs a little deeper and delivers a story as important as it is engaging.

High school senior Isiah is moving on from his rough life of a few years ago. Isaiah’s family disintegrated when his sister and grandfather both died violently, one from a drunk driver and one as a murder victim. Isaiah turned in all the wrong directions trying to find myself, and his girlfriend Grace was just as messed u
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tayshas-2021
Being a football mom, one whose son played nose tackle, if what happened to Isaiah happened to him, I’d probably make him quit. This book isn’t necessarily focused on football but the repercussions and what can happen to a person when their bell is cracked. I liked how it also focused on Isaiah‘s pre-football days and post football days. Football definitely gives a troubled kid focus, however, Isaiah‘s trouble stemmed from the devastating loss of his sister Hannah. He was acting out and the only ...more
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So I can say that sports books aren't normally my thing. And to be honest, I think I've had a bit of snobbery thinking that sports books were less then. Somehow written about sports to get non-readers interested in a story just because they already like the sport. I regret this outlook. Cracking the Bell had me hooked from the very beginning with the story of Isaiah and his love for football, family, and writing. Isaiah's story is bigger than football, but football is also at the center of this ...more
Ms. Yingling
Aug 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Isaiah's family has struggled after the death of his sister in a car accident that wasn't her fault. The parents divorced, and Isaiah got in so much trouble that he had to spend some time institutionalized and was finally given the choice by his father-- either play football, or stay in the institution until he graduated. Football has been good for Isaiah. It has given him structure, a support group, and a long term goal of playing at college. When his po
Sally Kruger
After Isaiah's sister Hannah was killed by a drunk driver, Isaiah fell apart. He had worshipped his older sister, and her loss ruined his parents' marriage and sent him barreling in the wrong direction. His delinquent behavior ended in his father offering him a choice - join the football team or return to the juvenile detention facility that hadn't worked for him the first time. Isaiah chose football, and his life turned around.

Now a senior and about to turn eighteen, Isaiah is a star player, st
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Note: I received an advance copy of the book from the author.

I was finishing this book as news broke about Andrew Luck's sudden retirement from the NFL, and I couldn't help but see the connections. Isaiah in Cracking the Bell isn't a multimillionaire with a degree from Stanford—he's a high school senior with a history of concussions in his life. Literal concussions from hitting and being hit in football. Figurative concussions from the deaths of family members and the unresolved grief that follo
Samantha (WLABB)
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Isaiah was on a downward spiral following the death of his sister and grandfather, but football provided a way for him to channel his pain. With many college coaches knocking on his door, he suffers another concussion, one he was unable to hide. As he processes the possibility of his life without football, he also confronts his grief regarding the losses his family suffered and the subsequent fallout.

This was an interesting journey. I sort of wish I had read instead of listened
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In the book to Cracking the Bell by Geoff Herbach, Isaiah is dealing with a lot through his sister dying, family fights, relationship issues, friends issues, and school issues. This book does not give Isaiah the upper hand in his eyes. Yet when he figures out that people cared for him more then he thought he had a reliezation that life can look bad from the angle you look at it from.

I belive Herbach did a great job on showing how a life can changed based on the factors of you life, he show that
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received an ARC of this book, and I’m so glad I did. Generally, sports books are not my first choice, but having read Herbach’s Stupid Fast series, I knew the storyline would appeal to me anyway. As usual, his writing did not disappoint. The main character Isaiah has had a rough time following the loss of his sister and his parents’ subsequent divorce. He makes very bad choices and is on the verge of losing everything when he joins the team. Football is what saves him, but after a particularly ...more
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Geoff Herbach is one of my new favorite writers for YA---I came to the party late perhaps. His newest release is about a boy, Isaiah, who is a senior in high school. His family experienced a terrible tragedy, the death of his sister Hannah, and they are broken. After her death Isaiah spiraled downward during middle school and ended up in a boy's home for a while; however, football changed everything. It added structure and team to his life, and he was even being courted by Cornell University bec ...more
Brenda Kahn
Wow! This has been languishing on my monstrous tbr pile forever! I wish I could read faster and didn't have other responsibilities like cooking, cleaning and grading assignments. I loved the author's Stupid Fast Trilogy and did a double-take when I realized this book is also set in Bluffton. I also enjoyed his book, Fat-Boy vs. the Cheerleaders, except I think the title was changed, as well as Anything You Want. So, I'm a fan. I think this was his best book yet. Isaiah is so flawed, yet so compe ...more
Cathy Castelli
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been a fan ever since Stupid Fast, and Cracking the Bell is another legendary addition to YA Sports. I know that the mark of a good book for me, is when I get so caught up in the story that I forget it's not real. In the novel, Isaiah has a green notebook where he writes his story. In the ARC I read, these stories are in italics. I found myself thinking, "Wow, that Isaiah is a good writer!" No, that Geoff Herbach is a great writer, and he totally had me gripped.

I'm thirilled for another YA
M.G. Velasco
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
CRACKING THE BELL is hard-hitting and relentless.

Football has given Isaiah a reason to stay out of trouble, an outlet for his intensity, and a focus to reach his potential. But football also breaks him. Isaiah is knocked out after making a big hit. The resulting concussion threatens more than his playing time. He may have to give up the game, because he could die from second-impact syndrome. Already emotionally scarred from the death of his sister and the divorce of his parents, Isaiah begins to
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-fiction
Isaiah Sadler knows things aren't right. They haven't been since Hannah died. They haven't been since his bell got rung.

This book does a great jump delving into the topic of concussions in football, particularly at the high-school level, and just how impactful the game of football can be to a young man.

There's a lot to unpack with family dynamics in this book, and how tragedy can alter more than just our emotions.

I'd say Cracking the Bell should be a book a lot of high school athletes read, espe
Isaiah was always a kid that got into everything and after his sister died in a car accident, Isaiah started drinking and getting in trouble with the law. His Dad gave him an ultimatum--either try out for football or go into a group home. Football gave Isaiah a focus in his life and he is great at it! His days are structured and he's also doing great in school. For after Isaiah suffers one concussion too many, he has to make the tough decision to give it up, along with his good life and a colleg ...more
WKPL Children's/YA Books
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Miss Lori read and "enjoyed"? this book that hints that it is about football, but is really so much more. I say "enjoy" with a question mark, as this was not an easy read but one I wanted to find out how it ended. This story shows what happens in a young person's life when tragedy strikes and they have no way to express their feelings but through dangerous behaviors, looking for attention.

The ending wrapped up a bit too quickly/nicely, but I'm not complaining! I only wanted the best for the youn
Ethan Rothstein
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really liked the book Cracking the Bell by Geoff Herbach. I thought the start was great because it got right into the action and got me hooked right off the bat. Another reason I enjoyed this book so much was that it's about football, one of my favorite sports. I found it interesting when Isaiah hit a kid really hard and got a major concussion and he had to decide whether or not he could continue to play the sport that has carried him through life. I also liked how simple and easy to read the ...more
1) through the book I was always on the edge. it had me wanting to not stop and read more in a since. I liked how the book revolved around sports.

2) this answers the question what does it mean to be a American in a since because in the book this guy who was beaten had bad friends and over came them in sports. liking his own dream

3)"all you people think Hannah was a angle, but she wasn't ok?" ( Herbach 6)

I would recommend this book to teens who like sports. this connects with them and also has
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’d give this a 3.5... it’s good, but still felt like parts could have been fleshed out more. Yet, it’s a book that is would appeal to reluctant readers so it doesn’t really need more details. Hence, I am on the fence.

Isaiah is a football player with one too many concussions that leaves him contemplating his future without the structure that the sport provides. Without playing, he goes off the deep end, especially when memories of his sister’s death start to resurface. It’s a good read with rel
Shelly Shaffer
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Isaiah's life has fallen apart after his sister tragically dies. He has to make a choice between playing football or going to a teen rehab camp. His dad insists on football, but when Isaiah "cracks his bell" on a football tackle and receives a concussion, he has to quit football all together. But he doesn't know what his life will be like without its stability and he's determined to find out what he can be outside of football. ...more
Amanda Iffland
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was very interesting. The author created a good lesson for the reader to learn and understand. Herbach (the author) made the details understandable and easy to follow. It is good for high schoolers to read and relate to the plot of the main character who went through a devastating loss and needed a distraction from it. Which was when he discovered football and that was his escape. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to others in our class!
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tla_tl_2021
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I picked this up because some of our middle school readers asked for sports books. It's a compelling, quick read with some good game details. But the bulk of the story is about the main character dealing with the fallout of family tragedy and past decisions. Not my cup of tea, but I think our teens will be into it. ...more
Carla A
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am regularly surprised when I enjoy a book that has a sport that I could care less about as part of the premise. I would have rated this 5 stars but the military/cop love at the end was off putting for me. I get it but doesn't fit with my ideology and frankly how the police behave toward the youth in my neighborhood. ...more
Mrs. Reno
I felt like overall the arc of the story was a little uneven and wrapped up almost too nicely - despite the remaining "what if's" of the narrator. The subject matter - TBI, toxic relationships, grief - all lend themselves to deeper exploration and the week-long timeline of this plot was too short to contain all of it. ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a very interesting book and if you are into football this is a good book to read. It's about this kids named isaiah, and he loves football. It saved his life after his sister's death, giving him structure. But one night in a football game, he got knocked out, from a blindsight tackle. But at that time he got an offer to a collage, but at this point either he would go back to football and with his friends because without him they couldn't win the championship, he was the team captain, or ...more
Ashley Baalmann
Crackin the Bell is a coming of age novel set in a small town. Isaiah struggles to stay on track after losing a big figure of happiness in his life. His battles and successes throughout this book are very heartwarming, and show a different perspective on events in another ones life. This would be a very good book for anyone that finds interest in the path to finding yourself and moving on.
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I am the author of the YA title, Stupid Fast (June 2011 from Sourcebooks Fire). I also wrote The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, a Novel from Three Rivers Press. When I'm not writing books, I'm writing for Radio Happy Hour or developing ridiculous musical bits.

When I'm not writing, I'm teaching writing at Minnesota State, Mankato, which means I write a lot of comments about writing on student writi

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