Monday, March 14, 2011

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

It's been four years since I read Robert Lipsyte's Raider's Night, but I still remember it--every detail. And, so, when I got to a certain part of this novel, I thought, whoa, I've read this before. I won't give away details, but I doubt if that event is so common that it needs to be repeated in a YA football book. I mean, really, I purchase about every football novel published for YAs, but I know other students are going to notice the similarities between the two novels.

HOWEVER, even if Mr. Cohen borrowed a little from Mr. Lipsyte, I loved the combination of gymnastics and football. The two sports are obviously treated very differently at Anooka High, and the characterization of Kurt and Danny is wonderful. The story is told from Danny and Kurt's point-of-view in alternating chapters. Kurt is a huge fullback who stutters who has been passed around orphanages and and foster homes his entire life. Danny is a tiny gymnast who is on track to be an Olympian, although he doesn't get any respect from his fellow students who aren't gymnasts. When Kurt decides to learn a back handspring, the unlikely pair become friends. And they need to stick together to team up against the three mean football captains.

And this is where I started to not like the book. The evilness of the three boys just seems unlikely. I especially didn't like how no one did the right thing--no one talked to an adult or told the police or told an older sibling or a parent. Some serious felonies happened here and the kids acted like it was just another bad name written on a locker. Hello? Felonies aren't something you try to retaliate by yourself. At least not in my world. And these kids have enough of a sense of right and wrong that they should have known better.

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