I will say this up front: despite what you might think judging from the title and the cover, this is not a football book. Sure, the main character, Felton Reinstein, gets drafted to play football (which he hasn’t the first clue about), but football actually plays a very minor role.
It is, however, a guy book. In fact, that’s the best thing about this book. Herbach knows guys, and he gets the voice down: Felton’s sweatiness, awkwardness, quirks, confusion, lusts, and cluelessness scream 15-year-old guy. Additionally, it works because Felton is so dang likable. Even in his guyness, you want to know this kid.
It’s the summer before Felton’s junior year. He’s about to turn 16, and his growth spurt (starting around Thanksgiving) has finally hit him: he can’t keep up with his body. That said, he’s, well, stupid fast. Which means he can actually do things in the sports arena, something he never could do before. He almost beat the track star before nerves got to him. So he gets recruited to play for the football team. He has no idea what he’s doing, but it feels good to get out and work his body out — especially since his home life has been falling apart at the seams.
See, his dad killed himself when Felton was five (Felton had the unfortunate experience of finding him), and his mother, Jerri, has just been holding it together — until this summer; now she’s slowly falling apart. Well, maybe not so slowly. She went from loving mom to calling Felton a jerk and a f-bomb-er, and spending her days in a dark room watching TV and sleeping. Felton has a way out, but his younger brother Andrew is suffering.
It sounds dark, but trust the first sentences (“This could be a dark tale! It’s not.”): while it’s tackling some tough issues, it never becomes an issue book. It’s really just about Felton and his ability (or lack thereof) to deal with all the changes in his life. The ending does wrap things up a bit nicely, but instead of being happy, it’s more hopeful: that maybe Felton, in spite of all the bad stuff around him — because, after all, he’s a nice guy — will make everything work out for the best.
Rated: Moderate for language, including two uses of strong language.