My rating: 5 of 5 stars
2011 is going to be such a great year for books. I went to the ALA meeting in January, and just the sight of this cover reached out and grabbed me. The book did not disappoint. Gut-wrenching drama aptly describes this coming-of-age story about bullying and fear and two young men, opposites in so many ways except for their need to uncover the courage inside themselves.
Kurt, the football player, has ugly scars on his face, a debilitating stutter that leaves people questioning his intelligence and him preferring to keep silent, and a desire to be big. Big enough so that no one can hurt him the way he and his friend had been hurt by the man he calls "Crud Bucket," the man in charge of the boys home he once lived in. Kurt's desire to be big and strong is fed by a high school football coach who freely dispenses steroids in the quest for a winning tram.
Danny is a sophomore gymnast still waiting for puberty so he won't keep being mistaken for a lost kid from junior high. His future plans include being team captain by his junior year and getting a full-ride to college to prove to his father that his "recitals" aren't child's play. His major event is the high bar where he has perfected a gravity-defying move that leaves even his coach (and the fifteen or so spectators that come to the gymnastics meets) shaking.
People fear the football team co-captains with good reason as their steroid induced rages grow more cruel and violent. After the gymnastics team faces them down over their treatment of one young boy, things escalate until a member of the gymnastics team pays a horrible price.
Kurt, the boy who can't talk, and Danny, the boy whose only real weapon is his voice, become targets of death threats. Kurt struggles to find the courage to trust that Danny won't let him down when his own bulk cannot save him. Danny struggles to believe that sometimes courage means forgetting that what you are about to do feels like suicide, but you have to do it anyway.
By the end they learn that it's not about how many muscles you have or how big you are or how fast you talk. It's about trust and a belief that with the right leverage you can indeed change the world. Oh yes, there is a girl. And both guys need to learn that "Girls Rule." Especially in the smarts department.
You don't have to care about sports to love this young adult story that comes out in February.
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