Author: Joshua C. Cohen
Published: February 2011 by Dutton Juvenile
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Tags: YA | Boys | Sports
Includes: Violence, Profanity, Death, Rape
First Lines: The high bar's chalky bite threatens to rip the yellowed calluses right off my palms at the bottom of the swing, where the pull is heaviest.
Danny, a small sophomore, may have never finished puberty, but he is a master when it comes to gymnastics. He's hoping for a full scholarship to college and becoming captain of the team when he's older. Kurt, on the other hand, is HUGE. He recently transferred to Danny's school because he left his group home and now has yet another foster parent. Even though Kurt was emotionally and physically abused, has a face full of scars and a bad stutter, he's the perfect football player. The coaches practically kiss his feet and his teammates awe at his skill. The two sports teams despise each other. Hate each other. Loathe each other. They are constantly playing cruel pranks on one another and competing over who is best. But when one prank goes way too far and has horrible consequences, war breaks out. It's up to Danny and Kurt to try to glue the pieces back together again.
Raw. Intense. Shocking. Unethical. Gut-wrenching. These are all words that pour into my head when I try to describe this one of a kind novel. I have never read anything before that made me that disgusted with humans, and was so mortified at some parts that I had to actually put the book away for awhile and come back to reality. This book did not hold back - there was extreme violence, over the top profanity, etc. - things I usually avoid. However it completely played its part in this novel and made the story that much more intense and believable. The kind of pranks they played on each other were inhumane and even though not realistic, still shocking to read.
The book reeked of testosterone, the very opposite of the kind of book I usually read - romantic and girly. Nope, this one was full of boys, sports, steroids, and disturbing topics. And I loved it. Cohen's writing was so skilled; I'm blown away that this is only his first novel. He created memorable characters and a plot that sucked me in right away. The book was written from two very different perspectives: Danny's and Kurt's. Unlike some books written this way and I get confused of who is talking, I always knew during this one. They are two completely different people yet alike at the same time. I thought it was so interesting watching a friendship and trust grow between them. The author definitely nailed the characterization spot on.
The ending was powerful, had me eagerly ripping through the pages to find out what would happen next, and was not a disappointment. Near the middle of the book it became a bit slow and dragged some, but the powerful moments in the story made up for it. My emotions were at its peak while I read, and I didn't ever take the book out to read while I was at school (like I usually do), in fear that I would start crying or yelling at the book! This is definitely one for mature readers and covers some serious things, but in the long run it is so worth it. I'll never forget this book.
Cover Thoughts: Awesome, un-human looking, and the veins make my stomach churn. It's perfect for this novel.