Sunday, September 26, 2021


Bietz, Kara. Sidelined
September 21st 2021 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

Julian is looking forward to his senior year in Meridien, Texas. He wants to play football and hopefully get scouted for a college scholarship. He's been living with Grandma Birdie since the death of his father, who also played football and had been hoping to set up a community center for kids in town. When his grandmother has a "surprise guest" for him, he never thinks that it will be Elijah. Elijah and his family moved away suddenly several years before, and Julian was devastated not only because the two had been friends for a long time, but because he hoped that after the two shared a kiss, they might be more than friends. Now, Elijah is back at school and living with Birdie and Julian until his mother, teenage sister, and her baby can move to town. Elijah's father is in prison, and everyone in the small town suspects that Elijah is just like his father. Since he was accused of trying to steal fund raiser money before his family left town, it's a hard thing to shake. However, he's not like his father, and he's a bit upset that in his absence, Julian had a boyfriend, Reece. When Elijah gets back on the football team, there is some tension. One of the issues is that the team always pranks their rival school before the big game, and Julian wants to put an end to this tradition because he thinks his father would want that, but when he finds out the truth about his father, things become complicated. Can Elijah and Julian navigate their shared history and find a way to go forward?

This young adult book captures the essence of senior year; both boys are trying to make the most of their time remaining in high school, but just want to move forward with college plans and escaping their small town. There is a lot of angst over incidents that really aren't that important, and Julian's hatred of the pranks is well founded, but also not taken seriously. He and Elijah aren't quite sure how to act around each other, and waste a lot of time avoiding each other. This is a great depiction of that uncertain time leading up to high school graduation. 

We are finally seeing books with gay characters who aren't coming out, but who instead are trying to figure out their relationships. This seems to be an accurate portrayal, and the difficulties caused by past history certainly inform their current actions and lead to some tension. It's refreshing that the ending is fairly happy. 

My only complaint about the book is that there is not quite enough football! This is more along the lines of Schmidt's Bookish Boyfriends: Get a Clue, instead of Herbach's Stupid Fast or Cracking the Bell, which are both young adult books with lots of good football details. If you're looking for more romance and small town drama than football, this is perfect. 
 Ms. Yingling

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