Friday, September 21, 2018

Here to Stay and Prodigy

Farizan, Sara. Here to Stay
Algonquin Young Readers (September 18, 2018)
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Bijan Majidi does okay in high school-- he has a good friend, Sean, is on the basketball team, and while he might be a little clueless about girls, he hopes that things will improve. After doing well enough on the basketball court to be moved to the varsity team, he hopes that he will catch the attention of his crush, Elle. Instead, after his victory on the court and a stint helping Stephanie Bergner gather signatures for a petition to remove "Gunners" as the school mascot, he is the target of an awful e mail sent to all of the students in his private school, photoshopping his picture onto that of a "terrorist". Bijan's mother is of Persian descent and his late father grew up in Jordan, but Bijan doesn't really identify as anything but a US citizen. His mother, of course, is tremendously upset about the e mail, and goes to the school, but Bijan just doesn't want there to be a fuss and hopes everything will pass. Yes, there are some jerks on his team-- Drew is also on a scholarship and isn't pleased when Bijan intervenes during an issue with Drew's girlfriend Erin, and Will is just a general jerk-- but Bijan isn't entirely sure they are behind the photograph. He continues to work with Stephanie on the mascot change, which is not popular with all students, and does well on the basketball court, dealing with some additional unpleasantness in the locker room. That doesn't bother him that much, but when another photoshopped picture, this time of Stephanie and her girlfriend, is circulated, he is interested in finding the culprit and bringing that person to justice.

Introducing racial tensions via sports books is a great way to get the attention of lots of readers, and hopefully open some eyes along the way. Bijan's insistence that this is a problem he shouldn't even be having is heart rending and will resonate with many readers. The rarified atmosphere of a private school makes this a little more complicated. It's good to see that there are a lot of people who take Bijan's side, and his most fervent wish is for people to just let him be himself.

The budding romance with Elle is sweet, and the friendship with Stephanie even more interesting. I did like that he and Drew came to an understanding despite their differences.

There is a lot of underage drinking in this, although Bijan listens to his mother and does not drink, and there are a few other situations that, while fairly calm for Young Adult fiction, make this more suited to high school readers.

I was a little surprised that there would be students who would NOT want to change the mascot from the "Gunners", but this book would have been finished well before the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Graced with a fantastic cover, Here to Stay is a compelling read about basketball, unlikely friendships, and that current sociopolitical climate surrounding race relations in the US. How sad is it that we are still dealing with racial issues like this that were described in books like Cerra's Just a Drop of Water (2016), Budhos's Watched (2016), Walter's Bifocal (2007), and even Cooney's The Terrorist (1999).

36949991Feinstein, John. The Prodigy
August 28th 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Purchased copy

N.B. I have never played or even seen golf. I know nothing about the terminology, the competitions, the players or... anything. I tried!

Frank is a very good 17-year-old golfer. after being a runner up in a big amateur tournament the previous year, he returns to the circuit and wins another big event (under noteworthy circumstances) that puts him in the Masters. He's up against older, competent players, and also gets to meet real life golf stars. (I'm assuming, only because Phil Mikelson was familiar from an arthritis medicine ad!) In the meantime, his personal life has drama. His mother left years ago and is living happily in Japan with her new family, and his father is on track to become the same sort of overbearing parent Tiger Woods' father had the reputation to be. Luckily, his coach, Slugger, calls in a reporter friend, Keith, to try to talk sense into the father. It doesn't go well, and the father continues to work with a rep, Lawrensen, whose only interest is in making money. Frank, to his eternal credit, just wants to enjoy the game and get along with his father. He also doesn't want to go pro any time soon, but wants to attend college. Keith, despite being a reporter and having a run in or two with the father, is very helpful to Frank, even working with him on a cheating incident (another player, not Frank!), and being the one Frank turns to when his amateur status might be in jeopardy. Things work out in the end, but not after a lot of suspenseful twists and turns!
Strengths: My goodness. This was a nail biter. I loved, love, loved Frank and his healthy attitude; I loved that Keith was a really good friend to Frank even though there was no reason for him to be, and I hated the evil father and rep who were trying to push Frank to go pro. This is a fantasy novel-- very few teen boys are going to make it this far, although one of my former students is doing quite well. There are so few golf novels, and this is just a fantastic one. I especially liked the fact that Frank was older but was too busy playing golf to get into inappropriate trouble!
Weaknesses: To me, Keith is a teenage name and Frank is an old man name. I had a LOT of trouble keeping the characters straight at first because of this! Also, my complete lack of knowledge about gold put me at a disadvantage.
What I really think: Brilliant choice for any 5-12 student interested in golf.

N.B.2- I can't think the word "golf" without hearing my mother say "more money than brains" in my head, which is what she thought of anyone who played gold!


  1. Oh, far be it from me to disagree with your mom but I have to in this case. Golf is every bit a mental game as much as a physical effort. The pros will tell you, in fact, that it involves more mental effort because of all the calculations of where the ball needs to go, the distance involved, the best means to send the ball where it needs to go, the sheer concentration needed put it there--and the amount of strategy to keep ahead of your competitors!

  2. PS--this book really sounds good.

  3. I think, in my mother's world, playing golf was seen as something that only the very rich and idle did. She came from an impoverished farming community, and I bet it's a saying she picked up from HER mother! My neighborhood used to have its own golf tournament, but 50 years later it isn't the new, posh place it was, and the neighbors who played are all elderly, but it always made me feel posh.... and giggle a bit!

  4. Ah, I see what you mean. I guess. with those beautifully-manicured courses and the nice clothes, golf has always seemed like a game for those with money. At
    least, that's what you see on TV. I grew up in a working-class family and played golf at the public course through high school and college. Never was any good--I was always happy when I could break 100 in NINE holes!