Ken's Reviews > Pop

Pop by Gordon Korman
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's review
Jan 09, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: finished-in-2010, ya
Read in January, 2010

Always hungry for YA sports books (those reluctant-reading boys, whose numbers are legion, you see!), I snapped up Gordon Korman’s POP because the cover and the description fit the bill. I hiked on home and got a running start, passing on television and the Internet to see what it was like.

The start was kind of odd and unrealistic. It features a high school kid, new to town, practicing alone at the public park. Out of nowhere a 50-something-old man appears and tackles him. They become buddies. And practice partners. Happens every day, right? And no one would worry that this guy might just be a little “weird,” right? Because he shows up daily and teaches our protagonist (Marcus Jordan to you) who to take a “pop” (that’s a hard hit). The old-timer’s name is Charlie and he’s nothing if not eccentric.

Well, Marcus shows up for try-outs at the football squad but they are coming off an undefeated year with almost all of their starters and none too interested in newbies. Turns out, the quarterback (Troy) is the son of the eccentric (Charlie) and has a secret (Dad has Alzheimer’s). Add to the mix the fact that the required beautiful head cheerleader, Troy’s ex-, takes an interest in Marcus and you get the stuff that YA books are made of.

Some good humor and lots of feel-good scenes make POP palatable fare. What bothered me was the total lack of realism at times – but this is endemic in YA lit and it may be me who’s just being a curmudgeon. To name just one example, Charlie is invited to his old college’s homecoming game to be honored but his family doesn’t want him to go because they fear he will make a fool out of himself. Solution? Marcus finds another ex-teammate of Charlie’s and gets him to pick them up (at Marcus’s house and not Charlie’s) unbeknownst to Charlie’s wife, son, and daughter. What’s worse, the ex-teammate doesn’t even question this. Where I come from, this is called kidnapping (not quite the same as “old man-napping”), but here it’s business as usual.

I guess the saving grace is the football action. That being its original appeal, the book scores and kicks the extra point with adequate gridiron narrative, so I think my sports-crazed, bibliophobic students might just snap it up and enjoy it. All is forgiven, then. Plus I finished it in two days. Never a bad sign, that. Four stars from a kid’s POV, two from a curmudgeon’s, and you get the field goal rating as a result.

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Reading Progress

01/09/2010 page 68

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