Catching Jordan (by Miranda Keneally)
Jordan Woods has always been one of the boys. When she’s a senior, she’s made it to the star/captain quarterback of her high school football team. Her teammates respect her and she’s a natural born leader. Her dad is a professional football player, her brother plays football in College and her own dream has always been to play football in college too. In fact she has her heart set on one college in particular, that of Alabama. For that to happen, she can’t afford losing her focus, though, as she wants to get in on an all-ride scholarship. Enter the new – hot – QB, Ty Green, who make her knees go all wobbly etc. etc. Anyway, there’s a romance triangle going on with her best of best friends Sam Henry – who she considers as her brother. Except he’s not, of course, and she’s the only one who hasn’t noticed he’s been in love with her since forever. Ooooooh… didn’t see that one coming, right?
Anyway, wow. Not as in “wow, what a great book this was”, but “wow, this actually got published?” Let’s see… shallow characters? Check! Under-developed plot? Check! Double standards? Check! But what takes the icing on the cake though, was the amateur writing! Seriously, the dialogues in this book: cringe-worthy bad. A story doesn’t even have to be the most original, but if the writing is as bad as is here, you’ve completely lost the cat! And what’s with all the tears and the crying??
So, never mind that the plot is a dime a doze (I mean, why even mention that Ty’s family got into a car crash, when you’re no actually going to develop that whole plot thread?), and that you see things coming from a football field away, the absolutely worst part of this book are the double standards. In a book that so overtly wants to overturn (gender) stereotypes, it does nothing but reinforce them. First, Jordan doesn’t see why people see the girl first and the football player second. But at the same time she’s the first to say that cheerleaders are all dumb bimbos. Also, they’re considered sluts when they sleep around, but when her buddies on the team do the same thing, they get off with a mere eye-roll? Insert eye-roll here…
Anyway, there are so many different things that are just so wrong with this book. Ty. Ugh, so he’s the hot new QB, falls for Jordan, she does the same instantly (just because of his great pecs, no doubt). He gets all control-freak on her (You have to pick up your phone! I have to know where you are!) and she doesn’t even call him on it? Jordan and Ty get at it faster than you can say bingo despite the fact she’s stayed a virgin for so long, but the first hot bod to come in and she throws herself at him? Decides she does actually “love” her best friend Henry, yet keeps on sleeping with Ty? And it’s the cheerleaders who are the sluts? Then she goes on about the whole “there should be more than sex”? Hypocrite much?
Leverage (by Joshua C. Cohen)
Then Joshua C. Cohen’s version of the American football world is a much better alternative, even though , there too, there are things that don’t exactly work in the book. Not, however, because the writing was atrocious or the main characters lacked substance.
Leverage is the story of 2 boys, Danny and Kurt who will form an unlikely alliance against a common threat or ‘enemy’: the steroid-infused jocks on the football team. Danny is a small kid, but a great gymnast, while Kurt literally looms over everyone, has a stutter and is a promising football player with an awful past. At their high school the football players are everyone’s heroes and obviously their team gets all the funds. When the gymnast coach challenges the football players into a contest deciding who can use the weight training room and it turns out in favor of the gymnasts, things soon spiral out of control. The football team is out for revenge… big time. Things escalate so much that the scrawniest kid on the gymnast team, Ronnie Gunderson, gets brutally attacked. Danny, who witnessed the whole scene play out, and Kurt who walked in on the attack, don’t really know how to respond to it all. Danny, for fear of being next. Kurt, because of a myriad of reasons: being the new kid on the team, he still has to prove who he’s loyal to, plus he has his whole troubled past which may come back to haunt him.
Leverage is a book about Mean Boys, which is totally refreshing considering YA usually feature Mean Girls as the main bullies. Cohen convincingly shows what bullying can lead to, and the consequences really are devastating. Cohen definitely goes for the gut here.
But, the main problem Cohen has in Leverage, is the debut syndrome: trying to put it all in. There’s bullying, there’s pressure, there’s steroid abuse, there’s suicide, there’s sexual abuse… And while the topics in Leverage are in and of itself totally gut-wrenching, the book as a whole could have been even more powerful if Cohen had focused more on the development of mostly ‘the bad guys’ and written some well-rounded antagonists… because seriously, the football players are nothing more than cardboard stereotypes. All of this made a lot of what you read in Leverage predictable, and yes also quite implausible at times (e.g. the ending is totally contrived!).
All in all, Leverage is a brutal book, extremely brutal… and maybe Cohen was going a bit too easy for the emotional response, but at least you’ll get some hard-hitting truths out of it, which is more than you can say about Catching Jordan!