Gym Candy

Gym Candy

4.6 117
by Carl Deuker

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"Look, Mick," he said, "you're going to find out from somebody in the gym, so you might as well find out from me. Those supplements you're taking? They might get you a little bigger, but just a little. If you're after serious results, there's other stuff that produces better results much faster, stuff that a lot of guys in the gym


"Look, Mick," he said, "you're going to find out from somebody in the gym, so you might as well find out from me. Those supplements you're taking? They might get you a little bigger, but just a little. If you're after serious results, there's other stuff that produces better results much faster, stuff that a lot of guys in the gym use."
"What other stuff?"
"You know what I'm talking about—gym candy."

Runningback Mick Johnson has dreams: dreams of cutting back, finding the hole, breaking into the open, and running free with nothing but green grass ahead. He has dreams of winning and of being the best. But football is a cruel sport. It requires power, grace, speed, quickness, and knowledge of the game. It takes luck, too. One crazy bounce can turn a likely victory into sudden defeat. What elite athlete wouldn't look for an edge? A way to make him bigger, stronger, faster?
This novel explores the dark corners of the heart of a young football player as he struggles for success under the always glaring—and often unforgiving—stadium lights.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2007: Football is in Mick's blood; his father made it to the NFL, and he longs to be a star. But is the high school freshman big enough, strong enough, fast enough? He has doubts, and when a personal trainer mentions he can get steroids, Mick eventually succumbs to the temptation. Despite the side effects—zits, ‘roid rage, depression, even beginning to grow breasts—he persists in taking them, and he does well on the field. Then his best friend finds his kit, and unexpected violence results. What will it take for Mick to quit his habit? Deuker is the author of other sports-oriented YA novels, such as Runner and High Heat, and he knows his stuff—there's lots of convincing and detailed football action here. Mick's passion for the game and his willingness to do anything to succeed are believable, too. This is a solid sports tale with a valuable message about the dangers of addiction. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
VOYA - Ava Ehde
Mick wants to blame his father for making football his life's focus, but it is only partly true. His dad has carefully planned his football career, even starting Mick in school a year late to give him a size advantage by high school as a running back. On the other hand, his mother does not even want to see the potentially violent and injurious football games. His good friends Drew and DeShawn want to excel at football also, but they were never driven like Mick. Mick was brought down just one foot from the goal line the previous season by an immense Foothill linebacker, so he works all summer to increase his size. He trains with weights to exhaustion and uses steroids to become a star, but in the end, he must accept that he does it for himself and that winning almost costs him his life and all that matters. He willingly puts up with the depression and rages that ensue. He gives up on a budding romance and on hanging out with his friends. This well-written work highlights the "bigger, stronger, faster" competitive culture to which Americans have been conditioned to subscribe in sports. Steroids have become commonplace, but this persuasive story is able to disseminate the facts and heartbreak of their use by showing what can happen to a driven, everyday guy. This story will make a great addition to both school and public libraries and an eye-opening recommendation to all budding athletes.
Children's Literature - Elizabeth D. Schafer
Pressured by his former professional football player father, Mick Johnson aspires to be an extraordinary athlete. Mick practices diligently, but despite his achievements, including being selected as a starter and freshman captain of his high school team, Mick's father is never satisfied. Mick seeks quick ways to strengthen his body. He buys nutritional supplements but is disappointed when they do not significantly build muscles. Mick's father arranges for Mick to work with an athletic trainer at a private gymnasium during summer break. Charismatic Peter Volz advises Mick regarding weightlifting and also sells him performance enhancing drugs. Mick initially limits his steroids ingestion, believing he can bulk up without becoming addicted. When school resumes, Mick noticeably runs faster and lifts heavier weights. He sets records and completes thrilling plays as his team defeats rivals. Celebrated as a football hero, Mick receives desired paternal approval. Although steroid side effects, including acne and puffy breasts, upset Mick, who experiences emotional rage and depression, he escalates steroid use, injecting those drugs in an attempt to remain competitive. Mick distances himself from best friend Drew and also girlfriend Kaylee's romantic overtures. Addressing a topic impacting many teen athletes, Deuker skillfully depicts Mick's transformation into an erratic steroid addict whose extreme behavior and choices catapult his life out of control, rushing toward a shocking conclusion. This book would pair well with Robert Lipsyte's Raiders Night (2006). Reviewer: Elizabeth D. Schafer
F. Todd Goodson
With Gym Candy, Carl Deuker presents a young athlete's journey through abuse of performance enhancing drugs. Mick Johnson's father was a failure as a professional football player, and he puts enormous pressure on his son to succeed in the sport. Held back a year from starting kindergarten so he would be bigger than the other boys, Mick struggles to find his own identity as something other than a football player. Eventually he connects with a personal trainer who gets him started taking steroids. While the effects are positive at first, eventually the drugs cause his behavior to become increasingly erratic as he sinks into despair. The book ends on a positive note, but the ending recognizes the on-going struggle confronting those recovering from substance abuse. Given the on-going interest in the use of performance-enhancing drugs by professional athletes, Gym Candy should hold strong appeal to sports fans (particularly middle school and high school boys), and the book's simple, uncluttered prose should be accessible to non-readers and struggling readers. Reviewer: F. Todd Goodson
From the Publisher

"Deuker skillfully complements a sobering message with plenty of exciting on-field action…[A] solid addition to the sports fiction shelf."--Booklist, 9/1/07 Booklist, ALA

"Deuker continues his run as premier author of provocative YA sports novels...[kick] off the football season with this riveting title…" The Bulletin 9/2007

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Deuker...knows his stuff...This is a solid sports tale with a valuable message."--KLIATT September 2007 KLIATT

"[A] great addition to both school and public libraries and an eye-opening recommendation to all budding athletes."--VOYA October 2007 VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)

"Deuker realistically portrays the paranoia, acne, and emotional roller-coaster...of steroid use." SLJ 10/2007 School Library Journal

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

My earliest memory is of an afternoon in June. I was four years old, and I was in the backyard with my dad. He’d just bought me a purple and gold mini football, my first football. He’d marked off an area of our backyard with a white chalk line. “Here’s how it works, Mick. You try to run there,” he said, pointing behind the line, “and I try to stop you.” He shoved the mini football into the crook of my arm, led me to the far end of the yard, went back to the middle, got down on his knees, and yelled: “Go!”

I took off running toward the end zone. Our backyard is narrow, his arms are long, and even on his knees he could move fast enough to catch a four-year-old. Time after time I ran, trying to get by him. But he never let me have anything for nothing, not even then. Over and over he’d stretch out one of his arms and tackle me. Sometimes the tears would well up. “There’s no crying in football,” he’d say, which I guess is a joke from some Tom Hanks movie, and he’d send me back to try again.

And then I did it. I zigged when he was expecting a zag, and I was by him. I crossed the chalk line at the end of the yard, my heart pounding. I remember squealing for joy as I turned around. He was lying on the ground, arms reaching toward me, a huge smile on his face. “Touchdown Mick Johnson!” he yelled. “Your first touchdown!”

All those years, I believed that every kid in the neighborhood was jealous of me. And why not? I’d spent time at the houses of the boys on my block —Philip and Cory and Marcus. I’d seen their dads sprawled out on the sofa. Mostly they’d ignore me, but if they asked me something, it was always about school. I’d answer, and then they’d go back to their newspaper. These fathers drove delivery trucks or taught high school or worked in office buildings in downtown Seattle. They wore glasses, had close-cropped hair, and either had bellies or were starting to get them. Everything about them seemed puny.

My dad was bigger and stronger than any of them. His voice was deeper, his smile wider, his laugh louder. Like me, he has red hair, only his was long and reached his shoulders. He wore muscle T-shirts that showed his tattoos—on one shoulder a dragon, on the other a snake. He kept a keg of beer in the den, and whenever he filled his beer stein, he’d let me sip the foam off the top. The way he looked, the way he acted—those things alone put him a million miles above every other kid’s father. But there was one last thing that absolutely sealed the deal—my dad was a star.

Our den proved it. It was down in the basement, across from my mom’s laundry room, and it was filled with scrapbooks and plaques and medals. Two walls were covered with framed newspaper articles. It was the headlines of those articles that told his story. I used to go downstairs into the den, pick up one of the game balls that he kept in a metal bin in the corner, and walk around and read them, feeling the laces and the leather of the football as I read. Mike Johnson Sets High School Yardage Record . . . Mike Johnson Leads Huskies over USC . . . Mike Johnson Named to All–Pac Ten First Team . . . Mike Johnson Selected in Third Round.

Sometimes my dad would come in while I was staring at the walls. He’d tell me about a touchdown run he’d made in a rainstorm against Cal or the swing pass in the Sun Bowl that he’d broken for sixty-five yards. When he finished with one of his stories, he’d point to the two bare walls. “Those are yours, Mick,” he’d say. “You’re going to fill them up with your own headlines.”

My mom had been a top gymnast at the University of Washington the same years my dad was on the football team. She runs around Green Lake every morning, and she used to do the Seattle-to-Portland bicycle race, so she knows all about competition. But every time she heard my dad talk about me making the headlines, she’d put her hands on my shoulders and look at me with her dark eyes. “You don’t have to fill any walls with anything,” she’d say. “You just be you.” Then she’d point her finger at my dad. “And you stop with all that ‘bare walls’ stuff.”

My dad would laugh. “A little pressure is good for a boy. Keeps him on his toes.”

Meet the Author

Carl Deuker participated in several sports as a boy. He was good enough to make most teams, but not quite good enough to play much. He describes himself as a classic second-stringer. "I was too slow and too short for basketball; I was too small for football, a little too chicken to hang in there against the best fastballs. So, by my senior year the only sport I was still playing was golf." Carl still loves playing golf early on Sunday mornings at Jefferson Park in Seattle, the course on which Fred Couples learned to play. His handicap at present is 13. Combining his enthusiasm for both writing and athletics, Carl has created many exciting, award-winning novels for young adults. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington, with his wife and daughter.

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Gym Candy 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
JacksonR More than 1 year ago
Gym candy is about a high school football running back and is forced into something that he never had even imagined before his personal trainer recommended it. he wanted to be bigger and do physical stuff longer. Mick ended up taking the steroids that his trainer put him on and was the starting running back by the end of the summer. once his friend drew, the starting QB for shilshore high, suspects something is up he tries to see what is happening. the entire book was well wrote and was a good read for everyone even if you dont like sports. i recommend this book to anyone who likes books that make you want to turn the page and keep reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading this book. I really loved it. All of the books I have read by Carl Dueker are awesome. I really liked this book because it kinda let you almost be in Mick's shoes.
Dt-_-113 More than 1 year ago
This book shows knowingness of the ability of how to write an intersting book. I first thought when I read this it would be good at most, but it blew away my expectations with its ability to picture the image in my head. I could see them on the weight bench with everyone standing around, going up and down with their 180's. One was draggor but I cant reacall the other ones name... Overall an amazing read and I would definately reconmend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read this now
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A story everyone should read. Stayed up all night to finish...hard to put down. Great insight on the pressures high school athletes face.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dum dum duuuuum
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is going off
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pants at her workout and walks back.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Has her gym at result 22 now! Same book, but barnes and noble just switched it to a different result. Just in case any of you forget, the book is titled bass gym! But i call it Destiny Gym, the gym of all types, and leader is pokemon girl, the winning beauty! Im looking for challengers in pokemon black and white or pokemon heartgold and soulsilver! For i have the games white and soulsilver! If any of you think you wanna take a challenge, just leave me at my gym page the game you will challenge me in, trainer name in that game, friend code, and thats all! You may choose to switch your team around before you battle me, but i will still be hard to beat! This message is from pokemon girl!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The next book is my gym
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think its awesome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gym Candy is an excellent read that I think would mostly apply to kids in high school, but anybody who plays football will definitely in enjoy this well written book. Carl Deuker tells a story about Mick and his experiences with vivid details and just the right words for you to feel like you're on the field in Mick Johnson's football cleats. If you enjoy reading, I recommend this book and even more so If you like football. -Jack
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Damn kyle desperate dating this chick u knocked her up
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It dont have to be i kiss you hard pulling you to me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book read in one sitting because of the climax!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Carl Deuker writes the book gym candy it is a wonderful book that you won’t want to quit reading. the main character is Mick Johnson who looks up to his dad who played in the NFL. Mick try’s everything he can to be the best on the football field and he takes it too far and finally realizes what he must do to fix what he has done. I really liked this book it’s a great book I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can you be a multi type gym
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The new ( and made up ) gym leader im the fairy type gym leader i have the power of fairy types im found at uxie res 10.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joltick is so cool!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The newest gym leader. He welds the power of fire types. Very powerful. Has a secret weapon that is NOT a part of his gym type. He is a proud owner of the gym in result 3.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A mysterious trainer. He's the newest Leader, although he's quite a force to be reckoned with. He is accepting all challengers he deems worthy at his gym in the eighth result. Come at your own risk. (Post)