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Monday, August 22, 2011

Leverage by Joshua Cohen

Reason Read: It was available at the library
Method Read: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult (Gr. 10+)

Confession -- sometimes I read a book based on what is available at the library, especially if I need an audiobook in order to have a book going when I am quilting or stripping wallpaper (both of which I been doing the last 5 days). Because the public library digital collection has become so popular, it is often difficult to find exactly what I want when I want it so I put a bunch of books on hold and check my email in hopes that something I wanted has become available. I rarely remember the names of the books or the reason I chose it, but unless it is a real dog, I go ahead and listen to it.

My most recent choice, Leverage by Joshua Cohen, was touted at being part Friday Night Lights and part The Chocolate War -- an interesting combination that I was anxious to try.

Wow! Was I ever blown away! This is the author's first published book. His website explains that it was taken out of a "slush pile" (a pile that all unsolicited manuscripts are placed in when sent to publisher's offices) and published. (almost unheard of!)

I am always looking for guy reads that appeal to high school boys and this one definitely fits the bill.

It is the story of a high school that has an outstanding football team with players being recruited to Division IA college teams. The team has just been allowed to purchase a "jumbotron" for the field to the financial detriment of all other athletic teams at the school. The main character, Danny, competes on the gymnastics team, and after a brilliant idea by his coach to invade the football team's weight room to work  out, Danny and his teammates become the victims of payback by the 3 captains of football team. After several back and forth incidents of revenge between the gymnasts and football players, the football players decide that they are going to have the last word and commit the most heinous act of revenge on the gymnasts imaginable.

Told in alternating voices, that of Danny the gymnast and a new student Kurt who is an outstanding football player but does not have the same steroid driven anger as the captains. The plot unfolds showing the brutality and fearlessness of bullies to whom the keys to the kingdom have been given.

The language is raw and vulgar -- exactly the way high schoolers speak to one another. The themes are extremely mature and needs a mature reader to handle the sexual overtones.

After reading some of my favorite book message boards, this book is showing up everywhere! It also received a starred review from Booklist, THE premier book review source. I would not be surprised to see it win the coveted Michael Prinz Award for the best Young Adult book of the year.

Grade: A+
Recommend: Yes, with the caveat that the reader is mature enough to handle the language and theme.