Friday, February 13, 2015

Leverage by Joshua Cohen

The football field is a battlefield

There's an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on - and off - the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy - including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school's salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

My Thoughts:

Um. So.


I picked this up because it was about an unlikely friendship between a big, tough football guy and a little gymnast guy. It's labeled YA so I'm expecting something like, you know, YA-appropriate themes and such.

It started out really well. The writing pulls you in right away. Cohen writes in a very true-to-life way; Dialogue is believable, events makes sense, characters have hidden back stories and you like them.

And then things started getting all stereotypically bad and scary.

***Major spoilers ahead!!***

Early on we find out that the 3 captains of the football team are bullying basically everyone not on the football team. Really scary bullying. Like the kind of bullying that would land you in jail, not just expelled from school. And they're taking steroids that the coach supplies them with. They're all giant and they fly off the handle any time anyone so much as sneers at them. They rule the school. No one can touch them, no one disciplines them, no one speaks against them. The whole tone of the book is so stereotypically, over-the-top against the big, mean football jocks that I almost couldn't take it seriously. The jocks were just completely flat characters. No depth.

Then real stuff happened. Scary real stuff. So scary that I just couldn't read anymore. Ok, so, I know stuff like this happens: Bullying and brutal sodomy and steroids and foster-related abuse and football-God-syndrome. It does. But does all of it happen together like this??? How did this one school contain so many of these issues? And why would I ever want to read about them all?

I think my major problem with this book was that it felt like Cohen took every stereotypical idea of dumb/mean jocks and shoved them all into this one book. It was so serious. And cringe-worthy. And frightening.

And Cohen writes in a way that is so unapologetically truthful; Meaning characters react to things in embarrassing or sad or cowardly ways, just like real people would. There is no one coming in to save the day. No sudden burst of "I can fend these guys off by myself!" Nothing. Just realness. It's hard to read, even if it is truthful. And I am a lover of honesty.

So yikes. I only read half the book. Can't read any more. Scary. Books like this are worse than horror for me. This will keep me up at night and haunt my dreams. I read the synopsis to see how it ended and I'm glad things resolve but, geez! I will not be reading it. Too much.

Sexual Content: Heavy
Language: Heavy
Violence: Heavy
Drugs/Alcohol: Heavy

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