Sports bullies get their just comeupance Jun 6, 2007
This book combines both the good and bad aspects of school sports, giving readers a more realistic story than in many sports books. There is detailed soccer action, some football action, and more than one type of school bully. Repressed memory is an interesting factor, also, as young Paul struggles to remember incidents from his childhood and about his mean, two-faced brother Erik. Should appeal to girls as well as boys, as it has girls as standout soccer players. Some secondary characters are Hispanic, but not stereotyped.
Seventh-grader Paul is a good soccer goalie, despite a visual impairment, but his parents hardly notice his games. They are focused on his older brother's (Erik) promising football career as a place kicker. When the family moves to Tangerine, Florida, from Houston to give Erik a better chance to be recruited by a major college, Paul joins the middle school soccer team briefly. Technicalities (he is on an IEP for his visual handicap) lead the coach to exclude Paul from the team. After heavy rains damage much of his school, Paul switches to another, poorer school, where he again joins the soccer team and learns to like the rough "gangsta"-type kids on the team.
Paul even visits the tangerine grove of the family of some of his new classmates and becomes aware of many social/economic barriers in his new community. Meanwhile his mother focuses on enforcing neighborhood rules and his dad on Eric's success. Plot twists are realistic and keep you turning the pages. In the end, Paul learns personal courage and enjoys earning a "bad" rep for defending his new friends.