John Feinstein puts you in the heart of the game. Doesn’t matter if it’s the baseball field, the basketball court, or the football field, when you open up the pages of one of his books, you are in the center of the action with the thrill, the agony, and the controlled chaos of sport whirling around you. Years of sports experience, finely honed descriptive skills, and a gift for storytelling combine to make Feinstein’s young adult novels captivating, action-oriented, and worth reading whenever you can get your hands on one.
In The Walk On, out this Fall from Knopf, we meet freshman Alex Myers. His folks have recently divorced and Alex, his mom, and younger sister have moved to Philadelphia to start a new life. Alex has an amazing arm and is trying out for his new school’s varsity football team, confident he’ll earn a spot as quarterback. But matters are complicated when Alex discovers that the team’s starting QB is the coach’s good-natured son Matt, and no matter how good Alex may be, Coach Gordon seems intent on benching Alex. Despite (or perhaps because of) the team’s record of wins, Coach Gordon’s philosophy of winning at all costs, his strident attacks on any criticism or opposing viewpoints, and the warped loyalty he demands from his players, push everyone to the edge, forcing players to take sides, turn on each other, and worst of all, succumb to the lure of steroids and their warped promise of speed, strength, and stamina.
What makes The Walk On rich is Feinstein’s uncritical examination of the mania that surrounds and propels high school football coupled with the way he sophisticatedly interweaves a myriad of other issues that realistically complicate Alex’s life: making friends and creating a place for himself in a new school; his growing feelings (and insecurity about how to act on them) towards Christine, his classmate and school newspaper reporter; the politics and powerplay between the coaches and the school administrators simmering behind the scenes; the anger and sense of abandonment Alex fells towards his estranged father; and the larger, ethical questions of loyalty, fairness, honesty, and doing the right thing, no matter the consequences.
- Posted by Cori