It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.
Volponi, Paul. Top Prospect
September 1st 2016 by Carolrhoda Books
E ARC from Edleweiss Above the Treeline
After Travis' older brother Carter is signed with the Gainesville Gators football team, Travis is thrilled. He also feels a little abandoned, so when he has the opportunity to show off his own football skills to the coach, he does. This results in him being given a verbal offer of his own scholarship in five years, which pushes him to become a more public figure and improve his game. This doesn't make Carter happy, and we hear from his point of view occasionally as well. The boys' father, who lives in California with his new family, rarely makes it to see them, but does talk to them on the phone, rarely with pleasant results. Carter sees first hand what pressure college sports can put on the players, especially when he befriends Alex, who has gotten some perks from local businessmen. This practice comes under investigation even as Travis is starting to benefit from it. Over the course of two years, Travis starts to see that while being a college player in the national spotlight can be attractive, there are many down sides as well.
Strengths: Ridiculously tickled that Volponi has written a solidly middle grade book with more mature themes but not mature language. If there were 30 sports books of this quality published every year, it still wouldn't be enough. I loved the close family relationships, the aspirations for college, the football (which was in depth enough that I didn't understand some of it-- sad, but that's my rule of thumb for "good" when it comes to sports. Am I lost at points? Awesome!), and the edgy, suspicious practices of the college football coach that are uncovered. A must purchase for every middle school and high school library.
Weaknesses: I almost didn't read this because Carolrhoda impressed me as a nonfiction publishing house that turned out hack fiction. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Glad I took a chance!
What I really think: I have so many readers who ask for and read sports books voraciously. This had sports and serious but not overly sad issues. Mr. Volponi can be added to our list of authors to whom we deliver dinners as long as they use their time to continue to write great books!
Walters, Eric. The Art of Picking Up Girls
September 6th 2016 by Razorbill (Paperback)
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Graham's family has moved from a small town to a much bigger city at the beginning of his senior year, and he's not pleased. He's never been the "new kid" before, and he's not looking forward to it. Fortunately, Ethan Frost is assigned to be his guide as punishment for having been out drinking. He's taken a fall for the football team, and they're not supposed to be seen with him, so he needs a new friend and wingman. Thus begins Graham's social whirl. Ethan likes to go to parties, clubs, and even AlAnon meetings, where he tells amusing stories (aka: lies) to girls in order to get them to go out with him. Once they do, he's never seen again. Graham doesn't think this is right, but has to admit that it's fun. Ethan is very smooth, and has clever ways to pick up girls, even if he never manages to really connect with any of them. Graham, unfortunately, does. After cruising a farmer's market and meeting Raine, he is attracted to her honesty and her passion for good causes. He's stuck being "Dakota", though, and even though he breaks Ethan's rules, sees her again. He gets involved in some animal rights activity that really changes his mind about things. What will he do if Raine finds out?
Strengths: Walters is a big force in Canadian Young Adult literature, and his Rule of Thr3e series has made it to the US, but his work usually doesn't. This is a huge shame. He writes solid, interesting books, often involving sports. This was particularly good. Ethan is completely reprehensible, but still very, very charming. It's easy to understand why Graham goes along with his plans. The fact that Graham ultimately doesn't agree with the dishonesty and is able to have a good relationship with Raine is fantastic. I would have this to high school boys in a heart beat. Very good stuff-- fun, but in the end will make them think.
Weaknesses: A little too much drinking for my taste, although Graham usually abstains. Also, this might be difficult to get in hard cover in the US.
What I really think: Very much enjoyed this and am curious to see what Mr. Walters writes next!