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High school All-American Neely Crenshaw was probably the best quarterback ever to play for the legendary Messina Spartans. Fifteen years have gone by since those glory days, and Neely has come home to Messina to bury Coach Eddie Rake, the man who molded the Spartans into an unbeatable football dynasty.

As Coach Rake's 'boys' sit in the bleachers waiting for the dimming field lights to signal his passing, they replay the old glories, and try to decide once and for all whether they love Eddie Rake – or hate him. For Neely Crenshaw, still struggling to come to terms with his explosive relationship with the Coach, his dreams of a great career in the NFL, and the choices he made as a young man, the stakes could not be higher.

163 pages, Hardcover

First published May 7, 2003

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About the author

John Grisham

428 books73.8k followers
John Grisham is the author of forty-seven consecutive #1 bestsellers, which have been translated into nearly fifty languages. His recent books include The Judge's List, Sooley, and his third Jake Brigance novel, A Time for Mercy, which is being developed by HBO as a limited series.

Grisham is a two-time winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and was honored with the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction.

When he's not writing, Grisham serves on the board of directors of the Innocence Project and of Centurion Ministries, two national organizations dedicated to exonerating those who have been wrongfully convicted. Much of his fiction explores deep-seated problems in our criminal justice system.

John lives on a farm in central Virginia.

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5 stars
8,016 (19%)
4 stars
12,309 (30%)
3 stars
13,669 (33%)
2 stars
4,864 (12%)
1 star
1,452 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,238 reviews
Profile Image for Diane Wallace.
1,110 reviews1,316 followers
September 21, 2017
Sporty read! enjoyable,heartwarming,well developed characters with good storytelling..recommend (paperback!)
Profile Image for W.
1,185 reviews4 followers
January 9, 2021
I doubt if American football is a sport I'd like to watch live.To me,it is a bunch of guys falling in a heap and breaking each other's bones.

I was,therefore,surprised how much I enjoyed this book.This is good storytelling by Grisham.A high school football coach is about to die,and the players he trained,reminisce about him,and the old days.The coach hadn't made it easy for them.

For a Grisham book,this is pretty short.
It was almost as if I was sitting in the bleachers,cheering for that high school football team,which had such a tough taskmaster as a coach.
Profile Image for Jane Stewart.
2,462 reviews834 followers
February 7, 2012
It was not fun. Guys who played high school football 15 yrs ago reminisce about the past. Melancholy and sadness.

Eddie Rake was a tough, mean, high school football coach with undefeated teams for many years. He now has cancer and is expected to die any day. Guys who used to play football for him have returned to town for the coming funeral. Neely was a star quarterback in high school. His career was cut short due to a knee injury in college. Neely talks with other guys about the past.

This isn’t the kind of storytelling I’m used to from Grisham. It’s not as fun. Almost everything is being “told” not shown. We listen to the guys reminisce and remember events from the past. It was interesting in a newspaper reporting kind of way. There is no excitement, suspense, or anticipation. I didn’t feel anything as I listened. I didn’t laugh or smile. At best it was ok. I felt the author may have been experimenting - trying a different style of writing.

Some of it was about brutality and violence in football. A lot of it was sad to see what happens to football players after they no longer play. I was sad for Neely at the losses in his life. His wrecked knee. He lost the only two women he ever loved. He broke up with one of them for a stupid reason, and he regrets it. He had no desire to study and better himself after his football career was over. He’s not happy. He’s resigned to life.

The author narrated his own book which was ok. It was interesting to hear his southern accent.

Unabridged audiobook story length: 4 hrs and 22 mins. Swearing language: none that I recall. Sexual content: none. Setting: current day Messina, Mississippi. Book copyright: 2003. Genre: football fiction. Ending: sad, resigned, life goes on.
Profile Image for Sumit RK.
339 reviews444 followers
February 6, 2017
A High school football star comes back to his hometown to bid farewell to his dying coach. The book is about group of friends reminiscing the glory days of playing together and their relationship with their coach.
Word of caution : The book is centered around American football and their recollections of their memorable games (incl a long play by play commentary of 1 particular game). So if you have no idea about the game, you will find it annoying after a point.
Sadly,the relationship between the coach and the players and the players themselves is never fully explored and the emotional ending at the end feels totally flat. Overall 2/5
Profile Image for Lynda.
61 reviews3 followers
July 20, 2008
Couldn't put it down. And it makes you think about how people influence you and how strong a bond is between coaches and players. This was excellent.
Profile Image for Kevin.
697 reviews6 followers
June 18, 2008
Fifteen years after swearing he would never return, Neely Crenshaw finds himself back in Messina, Texas, awaiting final word that local legend and former football coach Eddie Rake has died. When he left, Neely had become a local legend as one of the best quarterbacks in Messina High's history, but a falling out between him and the coach left him bitter and kept him away until this moment. Now, he finds himself drudging up the specters of the past with his former teammates as well as other former Rake players from other eras. This is a very painful novel to read having played high school football myself and I share many of the same feelings towards my old coach as Neely does — and as I'm sure many other former athletes do — despite the fact that I was not a star, hell I wasn't even a first stringer. In all honesty, this feels like a novelized version of what a sequel to the movie Varsity Blues would be. It's easy to tell that this story is very close to Grisham's heart and that he took the writing of this book very seriously as there are no cheesy subplots or alternate storylines to detract from the main story at hand. My only complaint was that this book was far too short. Clocking in at a mere 163 pages, this novel can be cranked out in one sitting and I felt that more could have been developed upon.
Profile Image for Lois.
250 reviews21 followers
July 8, 2007
I do own Grisham books, but only because family members keep buying them for me on birthday's and xmas's. I smile politely and thank them, wishing they would include the receipt. I have read this, and i don't recommend it unless you are 10 years old and want to start reading adult fiction. Dull, dull, dull. How this man is a best-selling writer is reflection of today's society's IQ.
Profile Image for Matīss.
165 reviews31 followers
August 18, 2020
Drāma par tēmu, kā skarbais tēls patiesībā liek jums ciest tāpēc, ka vēl jums labu. Rittīg stingrs piecinieks par meistarīgu spiešanu uz jūtām.
Profile Image for Amanda Patterson.
896 reviews266 followers
November 16, 2010
It must be boring to have to churn out a novel a year just because you’re a best-selling author. This ennui can be the only excuse for Grisham’s latest folly, Bleachers.

What a let-down when a crime novelist who once ruled a genre turns his hand to something more literary. “An unforgettable novel,” drools the inside of the book’s jacket, which was strange as I managed to forget it immediately. I had to drag the book off the shelf to remember the main character’s name.

Neely Crenshaw comes home for the burial of his school football coach, Eddie Rake. This coach was extraordinary. All of his boys remember him and the impact he made on their lives as they sit in the bleachers waiting for the stadium’s lights to dim and signal his passing.

Things have changed in his hometown of Messina. When he was a boy, there wasn’t a place to buy an espresso. Now, everything’s available and memories blur with real time.
Maybe this will appeal to American football fans but I got tired of hearing of the trials of Nate and Paul and Jesse. And I nearly lost it when Coach Rakes’s funeral lasted for almost 40 pages.
I studied the blurb again, “this novel….is about the many ways boys become men.” Really? Hmmm. Maybe you have to be a man to get it because it left me cold. His writing is competent but his characters lack depth. The plot was missing too, but maybe it was supposed to be. Who knows? Who cares?

I think this is one of the worst pieces of post 9/11 nonsense I’ve read. What a pity that a fine suspense author had to put all of his fans through this horrible ordeal.
Profile Image for Brad Carl.
Author 15 books196 followers
December 26, 2016
I've had this book for a long time, probably since it was released in 2003. I knew it was about football and didn't expect it to be fast-paced or action-packed. It's not a John Grisham thriller, for sure. Overall, it's a nice story. Kind of dark, maybe a bit anticlimactic. But at the same time, it has a nice message that anybody who has ever played youth sports should be able to understand.
Profile Image for Charity.
632 reviews442 followers
November 1, 2008
Holy majoly! I was so glad this book was short! It was lame-o.

Imagine the movie Varsity Blues, then add about 15 years with the full cast of characters coming back to town because the death of the former coach is imminent. That is the plot summary in a nutshell.

Profile Image for Christina.
91 reviews10 followers
August 3, 2008
I read this on the flight to Austin two weeks ago. Totally up my alley since it is about an iconic high school football coach and the impact he had on multiple generations of players. The former players gather in the bleachers at the school awaiting the death of the old coach as he succumbs to cancer. They slowly open up to each other sharing stories of the coach, not always glowing ones and in the memories of these players, the character of a dying man comes to life. It's an easy read as Grisham usually is, but also as is typical of his writing, there are some unexpected twists and excellent development of the characters.
Profile Image for Veronica F.
293 reviews3 followers
November 19, 2019
Let me start by saying I judge books by their covers. I don't spend the time to read the summary, I look at them and say yes or no. I said yes to Bleachers. I gave it a 3 star...

The writing is good, it flowed and kept me engaged enough to finish. I did not realize it was a book about football. I hate football, I don't understand it and I don't care about it or its players. I normally would have just moved on, but I liked the writing. I finished it, but did skim a few paragraphs here and there. I have no interest to ever read it again.

If you're into football or sports in general, it's worth a read.
Profile Image for Eddie Owens.
Author 7 books52 followers
June 13, 2017
This is a novella or a short story, not a novel.

When you're a best selling novelist you can get anything published.

This is a homage to those American high school coaches who inspired their teams. Nothing new or interesting here.

Listen to "Glory Days" by Springsteen and he says more on this subject in three minutes than Grisham does in 180 pages.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
4 reviews
March 18, 2014
The book “Bleachers was a wonderful book to show you the positive and negatives of life when high school football is the main point. It also has a wonderful picture of what happens when you let an accident control your life. The coach showed me that there are people that you will consistently think about even with a bad situation. Everyone in life needs a person to help them with pushing yourself to get better more than we would push ourselves. If you decide to check out this book, you'll find the person who is your motivation. A weakness in this book is that there isn't really a situation in where something really exciting happens, most of it is sad. I would recommend this book to a classmate because it focuses on the outlook of life and everything that can occur. If this book was part of a series, I would continue to read it because its very interesting on how it is set up with everything happening very quickly. I would like to see how the team and everyone around would handle the whole situation.
Profile Image for Ana Paula Nunes.
30 reviews76 followers
July 12, 2021
Ainda estou tentando entender como um livro de 186 páginas de conversas entre jogadores de futebol americano me prendeu tanto rsrs
Mas é o Grisham, né?

Claro que o livro é mais do que futebol americano. É como se Salomão estivesse personificado em jogadores que tiveram todo o holofote e sucesso. Estou vendo Eclesiastes em tudo? Com que frequência? O tempo todo!
Como não?

Tudo é vaidade, fumaça... correr atrás da bola.
Digo, vento.

Profile Image for Dele Haynes.
218 reviews13 followers
June 30, 2018
Bleachers By John Grisham (Fiction - Novella)
Former high school football players return to their home town to wait for the death of their former football coach, Eddie Rake. Rake was hard on his players, bordering on sadist, but he shaped his teams into state champions who established records that still stand in their state of Mississippi.

Neeley Crenshaw was one of those boys who came to reminisce. There are days that he hates the coach and days where he loves and respects Coach Rake. There's a lot of bad blood between them and Neeley's not sure if he can find it in himself to forgive the coach.

Bleachers takes place in a small southern town. Like most there isn't much going on except the only entertainment in town, the Friday night football games. Their lives revolve around the team. It's not unlike many small towns where the players never grow passed their glory days. Yet, many of these players went on to be more in their lives. Maybe the coach had something to do with that.

Bleachers is one of those rare Grisham novels that isn't a lawyer book. I find that some can be boring because they fit into a formula. I believe Grisham reveals more of himself in these novels.
Profile Image for Jay Schutt.
244 reviews79 followers
May 31, 2015
A nice, quick-reading story of a star quarterback and some of his teammates who return home, after several years, to honor the death of their legendary coach. Most have a love/hate relationship to deal with. A departure from the usual Grisham legal novels.
Profile Image for Pablo Donetch.
Author 4 books58 followers
October 22, 2019
Para los que quieran conocer a John Grisham, El Último Partido no es un buen libro. Escapa completamente de su línea principal. Narra la biografía de un entrenador de fútbol americano y de como influye en la historia de un pueblo completo, todo desde la perspectiva de los habitantes del pueblo, de sus pupilos y de una joven promesa que vió frustada su carrera por una lesión inesperada.
Es una buena novela, corta, simpática. A veces conmueve con su nostalgia, pero nada que cambie la vida. Es una historia muy gringa, difícil de entender y de empatizar para los que no conocemos el fanatismo por el fútbol americano.
Profile Image for Adam.
221 reviews115 followers
March 4, 2020
Quick easy read (had to pick something for entering the Valentine's Day 'win a box of chocolates' contest, hey I'll do most things for chocolate).

The gay guy (and cafe bookshop owner)and the journey and transformation of the hero coach (man Yanks are so obsessed with high school football, Friday Night Lights?) at the end was pretty good.

The unrequited love interest was a lil bit of a tear jerker too but aren't they all? Unrequited love is the worst.

Moral of story: if you're in a small town, get out of there and don't come back! They're shitholes.
Profile Image for Victoria .
103 reviews9 followers
February 24, 2022
Una veta diferente de Grisham que desconocía. No me ha enganchado lo suficiente porque sinceramente de fútbol americano no entiendo mucho y jamás este deporte podría tocarme fibra sensible alguna. De todos modos, he aprendido algunas cosas y no ha sido tan pesado. Se agradece la brevedad para los que no nos moviliza este deporte.
Profile Image for Shaun.
425 reviews
March 24, 2016
It was ok. Not one of Grisham's best works. I'd probably like it more if I were more in to high school football.
82 reviews
July 29, 2022
Not your typical Grisham book, and that’s not a bad thing. If one has no interest in or understanding of football, some of this story may be a bit dry, but try to get past that and focus on the meat of this story.
Profile Image for BarbaraW.
401 reviews14 followers
February 4, 2022
A little short novel centering on small town hs football. Grisham nails it again. You’re there. You feel the mental and physical pains. If you grew up in a small town you’ll get it.
46 reviews1 follower
July 21, 2017
Somewhere out there is someone who heard that John Grisham was a great author, chose this as their first book of Grisham's to read, and remains confused about the hype.

This book has all the mental complexity of "See Spot Run." If anyone else submitted this for publication, it would have been turned down by any reputable publisher. a) The story lacks a plot of any sort. b) When the writer turned lazy, he turns a conversation between players almost into bullet points. ie, Neely: Hello. Paul: What a game. Silo: We were great. Neely: Yes we were. And so on. Then before long, back to typical prose, ie, Neely saw his old friend Paul and said, "Hello." c) The only real "mystery" involved is highly predictable and can be seen from early in the novel.

A number of inconsistencies involve he main character, Neely Crenshaw:
1) Crenshaw hates Coach Rakes but returns to be in town when Rakes passes away. Not to see Rakes, just to be in town. A town where has no ties. No friends that he's called in advance. And then to attend the funeral of a man he has hated.
2) Crenshaw's only tie to the town was his old teammate Paul Curry. The book says that he isn't close to Paul, but he still phones him 3-4 times per year. Well, if I talked to someone long distance on the phone that often, I'd know an awful lot about the person. And yet, Crenshaw had to ask how many kids Paul had.
3) Crenshaw doesn't want to relive his high school glory days as the All-American star quarterback. He avoids talking to people about it, but shows up unannounced at the old stadium on consecutive nights. He listens to an old audio-broadcast of one of their championship games. He recites the plays to his teammates as if the game happened yesterday.
4) Despite the aforementioned hatred of Coach Rakes and the promise to never return, Crenshaw sits front and centre at the funeral.
5) This may not be an "inconsistency" in writing so much, but it is truly unbelievable that after having broken up with a girl more than half his lifetime ago, he feels the need to profess an "I love you" to a girl he hasn't spoken to since he was sixteen years old.

200 pages, large font, small words, and I feel insulted for shelling out almost seven dollars for this crap.
November 7, 2011
“Bleachers” is a very good and inspiriting story. It made me think what my life will be like in the future when I’m done playing football. I could relate to it in many ways and some of the things John Grisham wrote about in “Bleachers” i have actually seen or heard about in my life time. "Bleachers" by John Grisham is about the legendary Messina Spartans football team and Coach Rake's team coming back to their home stadium and saying there last good-byes to Eddie Rake. Eddie Rake was the meanest and hardest coach throughout Spartan history but is the man who caused the Messina Spartans to be the best football team in history. While Coach Rake was slowly dying the boys got together in the bleachers and would talk about all the old games and memories they remembered and what they went through. Some memories were good and others were bad, but by the end of the night they would end up realizing what a great man and coach Eddie Rake was. He led them to many victories and state Championships and got them prepared for their future life. During the funeral, High school all-American Neely Crenshaw was probably the best quarter back to Rake and Crenshaw realized a lot once he heard some words from his old Coach. Neely Crenshaw is now a man who is all grown up and must finally forgive his coach and himself with the incidents they had in life before he can get his life back on track.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
124 reviews
June 7, 2017
Not 100% sure why I liked this, maybe it is because I love football and can relate. Maybe it is because it was a lot like Friday Night Lights and I really miss that show. To be honest, Neely was kind of stuck in the past and it was sad. A lot of those guys were like that and it is sad to know that they lived in the past that much. Neely couldn't get over high school and his failed goals. It hampered him his whole life. He needed the death of his coach to get past that. Although heart warming, that is also really sad. A lot of the boys who were very successful in life weren't great ball players. I think that is a lesson to learn for athletes. Its not about what you do while playing, but rather what you do with the lessons you learn from the game. I had to learn that as an athlete as well and I think I am better because of it. Overall I liked the book, but wish there was some more interesting story lines and some better characters to latch on to.

I like the metaphor of the coach being the field and how that is his legacy. I liked how all the players have a common bond because of the coach they played for and I loved that that bond lasted a lifetime. It had no bound or thing that could hamper it. I loved that they realized after the fact the impact that the coach has. That is such a strong and important bond. Lots of good messages in this one.
Profile Image for Miria.
26 reviews6 followers
February 29, 2016
This is my first John Grisham book and it was a wrong choice. This book is about a football player, not the one Rolando, Messi plays but the American football. Since I have no clue about the American football, I hated the book for the first half as the first half deals only with the recollection of football memories by the protagonist Neely Cranshaw. Neely comes to his hometown after he hears the news about his football coach being in his death bed. Neely hates his coach but still wants to be in town when the coach breathed his last. The reason why he hates his coach is not revealed until the coach dies. Later during the funeral, Neely changes his mind and realizes how much he loves his coach Eddie Rake. It gets sentimental towards the end. You can read this book once but before you start reading, familiarize yourself with the football terms like 'touchdown' etc.
Profile Image for Michael Shevlin.
109 reviews
January 17, 2012
John Grisham has decided to wander off the path and write something set outside the courtroom. Which is great, the only problem is that he has essentially lifted the highlights from the TV show Friday Night Lights and, well, that's a bit cheeky.

It is well written and is an easy read with no challenging plot twists or complicated relationships - but because of that it is a bit dull. The essence of this book is about regret and one wonders why JG wrote it? He must have more money than God - what possible regrets must he have? That he didn't choose to write vanilla melodramas that are barely novel length?

Get over it, John. Buy a Maserati or two and keep churning out the legal thrillers, that's a good boy. You're good at them.
Profile Image for Bethany.
882 reviews18 followers
July 18, 2019
Disclaimer- I am not a sports fan. I barely understand football. I didn’t play any sports growing up so I don’t get the pull of the coach and the team. It’s probably my biggest handicap in life.

This book also reminds me a bit of Coach John Wooden, basketball and no violence, but similar adulation etc.

The book is well written and stirs a lot of feeling, probably for a variety of reasons. I’m going to keep mine to myself I think, but they’re not very positive. I hate a lot of societal aspects that are stereotyped here.

I’m glad Neely moved on.
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