Leverage

( 14 )

Overview

Danny excels at gymnastics but is bullied, like the rest of the gymnasts, by members of the football team, until an emotionally and physically scarred new student joins the football team and forms an unlikely friendship with Danny.

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Leverage

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Overview

Danny excels at gymnastics but is bullied, like the rest of the gymnasts, by members of the football team, until an emotionally and physically scarred new student joins the football team and forms an unlikely friendship with Danny.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cohen's debut offers a timely look at bullying, although coincidences and an over-the-top portrayal of the bullies undercuts the message at times. At Oregrove High, a trio of steroid-fueled football players bullies everyone, including the players in other sports, such as gymnastics. Danny is a high-bar specialist who does his best to stay out of their way, but an escalating war between the two squads draws him and his teammates in; when tragedy strikes, Danny is one of the few who know that the bullies are responsible. Another witness is Kurt, a stuttering abuse survivor and fullback who has just transferred to Oregrove. As the two teens cope with their guilt over their inaction during and after the shocking events, they are forced to confront both the bullies and their own insecurities. The central tragedy is gripping, as is Kurt's heartbreaking past, but the gratuitous thuggery of the bullies and their steroid-pushing coach more often feels like a scene out of Glee than out of real life, and the resolution is pat and unrealistic. Scenes of sexual violence may disturb some, but are appropriate to the plot and well-handled. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)
Booklist Starred Review
Sports novels don't hit much harder than this. Sophomore Danny may be a rising star on the gymnastics team, but that figures little in his daily life, where his small size makes him a target for the school's ruling class—the hormone-pumped, college-scouted stars of the football team. A minor grudge escalates until horrific revenge is taken upon one of Danny's teammates. Coming to the rescue, however, is Kurt, a behemoth new fullback whose scarred face and stuttering speech hint at a past that puts him at odds with his teammates. Told from the well-drawn alternating perspectives of Danny and Kurt, this is not a book about steroids; they exist, and they exacerbate the strife, but even Kurt admits that they have some short term benefits. Rather, this is a novel about being trapped inside a web of expectations, where one's family, community, team, and future rest on the assumed perpetuation of the established social order. Sports fans will love Cohen's style: direct, goal oriented, and filled with sensory detail. Characters and subplots are overly abundant yet add a deepness rarely found in comparable books. Drugs, rape, language, and violence make this book serious business, but those with experience will tell you that sports is serious business, too."— Daniel Kraus
VOYA - Cindy Faughnan
Danny is a tiny freshman on the gymnastics team at his school. Kurt was abused in a group home and decided the way to protect himself was to lift weights and bulk up. He is now a junior and a huge football player and is recruited for the football team in a school that will win at any cost. His new coaches push steroids on their players, and his new foster mother looks the other way and accepts the bonuses. When the three football captains take their bullying of the gymnastics team too far and rape gymnast Ronnie, Danny and Kurt are witnesses. After Ronnie commits suicide, Danny and Kurt become uneasy partners because of their knowledge. They have to deal with their anger, guilt, and helplessness, as well as the escalating torture from the steroid-taking football captains before they become the next victims. The chapters alternate between Danny and Kurt as they decide who they can trust and whether they can speak up about what they each know. The gripping story of their safety and how they each got to where they are keeps the reader in suspense. Details of the sports of football and gymnastics and the incidents of bullying are graphic. The issue of steroid use is a little lost in the overshadowing bullying, although the bullying is attributed to the long-term steroid use by the captains. This is an excellent book for sports fans, even though it is a chilling look at highly competitive high school football. Reviewer: Cindy Faughnan
VOYA - Jenna Yee
Leverage is a great read for the high school student or advanced middle school reader. Told in first person by two alternating characters, it is the story of an exaggerated stereotypical high school that will be familiar to readers. Cohen writes very well in the perspective of the two high school students. He uses language that is appropriate for the target audience. The story is catchy and will keep readers interested in the plot. 4P,3Q. Reviewer: Jenna Yee, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The rape of a gymnast by three members of his high school's football team is the central event in this disquieting novel of bullying at its most violent. Danny Meehan is a promising gymnast bothered by his small stature and youthful appearance. Kurt Brodsky is a massive, physically talented football player tormented by past abuse he has suffered in the foster-care system and by a pronounced stutter that leads others to believe he is mentally challenged. In alternating chapters, the two boys describe the manner in which the campaign of intimidation orchestrated by the football team's tri-captains leads to an escalating level of violence that culminates in the attack on the smallest and weakest of the gymnasts, a freshman named Ronnie Gunderson. Kurt is not a part of the bullying, which reminds him of the torture he himself endured and that led to the death of a close friend. In fact, Kurt intervenes in the rape, fighting off his teammates in their attack on Ronnie. Danny was hiding in the room where the attack occurred, too fearful to defend his friend. Ronnie subsequently kills himself, but, for reasons of their own, Kurt and Danny are reluctant to openly accuse the attackers. Finally, with the help of a techno-savvy Goth girl, the two boys are able to expose the rapists in a very public way. This powerful novel is thought-provoking and well-written, and it's about as dark and disturbing as YA literature gets.—Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT
Kirkus Reviews

Kurt and Danny are on high-school teams vastly different in school status. Danny, slightly built, is on the underfunded gymnastics team, while physically gifted Kurt is the latest addition to the popular football team. Each uses sports to cope with tough personal issues. Kurt's foster care and painful stutter are more visible than Danny's insecurities. A bullying episode inflicted by some football players drives a young man to suicide and links Danny and Kurt in an uneasy secret. This frank portrayal of the darker side of high-stakes school athletics is told in two very distinctive voices. There is little subtlety in the storytelling—the football coach is predictably single-minded, while the gymnastic coach is sensitive and earnest—but the exploitation of young athletes, from accepted steroid use to the way school budgets are manipulated, comes across. The gamesequences are well done, and there is plenty of authentic locker-room talk, some of it racist and homophobic. Kurt and hisstruggles are heartbreakingly real,and readers willpull for him long after the story ends. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142420867
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 9/27/2012
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 195,047
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Joshua C. Cohen is a former collegiate gymnast who now lives with his wife in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
Rating Distribution

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(7)

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(4)

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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2012

    Sad

    This book shows the devistating results of school pranks taken to far and in insightful look at abuse and the results.......

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    the execution is not ideal with gaping plot holes, unanswered questions

    Danny knows he's small. He knows in terms of the pecking order at his school he falls near the very bottom (but above the Cross Country Runners at least). Doesn't matter. He has a plan. Sure everyone makes fun of the boy's gymnastics team--especially the varsity football players. They can laugh all they want when it gets him a full scholarship to a college of his choice. Danny is going places. All he has to do is keep his head down and stay out of the way of the football giants until he graduates. Easy.

    Kurt Brodsky doesn't care about high school politics. When you're as big as Kurt is, you don't have to. Classes, friends, sports. Doesn't matter. As long as he can lift weights to stay strong and try to keep his past buried, it's fine. No one is going to hurt him ever again. If part of that means joining the Oregrove High football team, fine.

    Except nothing about the football team is simple. Not when the players keep taking questionable "supplements." Not when the players can stomp anyone who looks at them funny in the halls. Not when the rivalry and tension between the football and gymnastics teams escalates to something violent and ugly.

    Danny and Kurt should have never started to talk. They sure as hell shouldn't have liked each other. But they did. That happened. If they can find the courage to work together maybe they can make this violent, ugly thing better. They can't fix it or change it. But maybe they can make some things right in Leverage (2011) by Joshua C. Cohen.

    Leverage is the first novel by Cohen who, before writing, parlayed his own high school gymnastics training into a professional career. Leverage was also a finalist for the 2011 Cybils in Young Adult Fiction which is how I came to read it.

    Told in chapters alternating between Danny and Kurt's narrations, Leverage is a book with great characters and strong writing. Cohen captures two authentic, distinct voices with Kurt and Danny while shedding light on what being a high school football player or gymnast really feels like.* I just wish the book had a different plot.

    This is a gritty, brutal, painful story about a school being torn apart by something that is supposed to bring people together: team sports. While Cohen provides an unblinking look at some harsh realities, the execution is not ideal with gaping plot holes, unanswered questions, and an ending that pushes the limits of believability on almost every level.**

    Leverage is a strange, tense read. Although it is filled with authentic details, the story has erratic pacing and ultimately lacks any real sense of resolution even after drawing readers in and making them care so much about these characters for the entire 425 (hardcover) pages.

    The book will no doubt appeal to sports fans and athletes as well as anyone looking for a book that doesn't flinch from the harsher side of reality. It will not work as well for readers who like every question raised in a story to also be answered.

    *I read this book a month ago and the idea of a school gymnastics team still blows my mind. It never occurred to me that such a thing could exist. (I went to a really small, non-sporty school.)

    **Not to mention being largely predictable. If you've finished the book you'll probably see what I mean.

    Possible Pairings: Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King, Legend by Marie Lu, Boy Toy by Barry Lyga, Fury by Elizabeth Miles, Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales, Between by Jessica Warman

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Good sports story

    Joshua C. Cohen pairs two unlikely protagonists in his powerful, new novel LEVERAGE. He takes aim at bullying without softening the edges of this very real problem plaguing schools across the country.

    Kurt is adjusting to yet another foster care situation. In the system for years, he has suffered some of its worst nightmares. He's a huge kid with an attention grabbing scar on half his face, and if that's not enough to attract the bullies, he stutters. Fortunately, his size and strength have earned him the attention of the football coach and maybe a way to attract some positive attention for the first time in his young life.

    Danny spends much of his time alone because his mother is dead and his father is a busy doctor. His physical strength comes as a surprise and isn't noticed by most until he demonstrates it doing amazing tricks on the high bar as a gymnast. As powerful as he is on the bar, he is almost helpless when it comes to dodging his tormentors in the high school hallways and locker rooms. His best defense is to avoid the bullies whenever possible.

    As a result of their unlikely friendship, Danny and K¿urt are in the wrong place at the wrong time and witness a brutal attack on one of Danny's teammates. The bullies involved are confident that their power and popularity allow them the freedom to mistreat anyone without suffering the consequences. Like most bullies, much of their power comes from the fear their victims have of seeking help.

    LEVERAGE portrays the efforts of two teens to overcome their fears to find justice for a friend. This is not an easy book to read, and I found myself needing to put it aside to digest some of the most disturbing scenes. What brought me back each time was knowing that as disturbing as these moments seem, I know they reflect the truth of events suffered by real victims every day. LEVERAGE will encourage readers to never fall into the role of passive bystander if they should witness the acts of bullies.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2012

    intersting

    This book shows how keeping a serect can go a long way and how violence can lead to terrifing results

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2014

    A big turn on

    Horny

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Really enjoyed

    I wasn't sure what to expect from this book, but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. As a mother of three, I wondered how often things like this happen to high schoolers nowadays! Great read for all ages!

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  • Posted February 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Sports fiction will always have a special place in my heart beca

    Sports fiction will always have a special place in my heart because it combines two of my favorite things: sports and... well... fiction (okay, shut up).

    I grew up with Dan Gutman and Mike Lupica, but I think Leverage was probably my first venture into older teen sports fiction, and definitely my first one about football (which, might I add, is my all-time favorite spectator sport). I know by the blurb, it sounds like another Friday Night Lights, another head-butting, sweat-packed story about the strength that goes into football and the tough friendships formed along the way, but isn't—it definitely isn't. Leverage is much, much more: It's deeper, more tragic, and more grueling than any other sports novel I've read before, and it's an unexpectedly jarring, as well as unexpectedly hopeful story that everyone should be aware of.

    There are so many different issues tackled in Leverage, including the nit 'n' grit of two very competitive varsity sports teams, the treacherous social structure of high school, and an unspeakable crime against innocence, that all throw outsider, Danny Meehan, into chaos. A determined gymnast and self-proclaimed "nobody," Danny knows better than to mess with Oregrove High's most powerful social circle: the football players. It hasn't been too long since I last cheered on my own high school football team in the stands, so I knew exactly the atmosphere, exactly the rush of the crowd, that Cohen portrays. I do feel his evocation is a bit exaggerated, because never have I met such mean high schoolers, nor such brutal teenagers, but then again, I'm no Danny Meehan; having never gone to school actually fearing for my safety, I've probably never noticed the great, disastrous social divide. 

    When Kurt Brodsky, a terrifying rock of a fullback with a mysterious, painful past, treads softly onto Oregrove's social scene, Danny sees the school's dynamic doing a fabulous turnover. Suddenly, football players actually seem human, and he even builds up a little bit of courage for himself. All of this comes crashing down when he alone witnesses an inconceivable act of violence, and then is forced to live with the guilt of the ramifications that succeed it.

    The hazardous burdens upon a faultless witness, as well as the morality that separates the bystanders from the perpetrators, are embodied seamlessly within Danny's conscience. I think Leverage is a book that everyone should be talking about, just for the hundred and one issues it raises on current events such as child abuse, sports security, and bullying. 

    I'm afraid to say anymore because I don't know if I could without spoiling the story/fangirling hard, but I will leave you with this: Leverage presents the darkest, most horrifying tragedy you could probably imagine in a contemporary teenage setting. I place this work of young adult fiction apart from others because while others may convey equal brute and equal atrocity, none has ever been so real, so realistic. 

    Now, if Leverage was a film, it would be rated R, not only for disturbing content, but also for some language, violence, and sexuality. (Not that any of it was enough to bother me—with the exception of one stomach-dropping scene that literally made me tremble—but just a warning: this is most certainly not your sweet, chaste young adult read! I repeat, this is NOT YOUR SWEET, CHA-)

    Someone cut me off. Anyway. I love Cohen's voice. Leverage is split up into two narratives: one of the smart, smart-assy Danny, and one of the worn and leather-hard, but still tender Kurt. The high school dynamic is perfectly captured—from the tiny little observances regarding teachers and their inability to ever be subtle, down to the reeking of every boys' locker rooms (don't ask me how I know what a boys' locker room smells like)—and this is mainly the reason why Leverage is so true-to-life, and why it hits so close to home. Like I mentioned before, some of the secondary characters (e.g. the inflatedly brainless football players and the overly determined coaches) are a bit too much; I understand the author meant to caricaturize specific stereotypes within these supporting characters, but it did make the story slightly unrealistic. Fortunately, our two protagonists are perfectly proportioned and perfectly probed, which contributed a lot to my enjoyment of the book.

    Kurt was an easy character to like—the gentle giant with a huge heart. The slow uncovering of his secretive past is riveting, and his ultimate triumph astonishing. I loved reading about him warming up to Oregrove, and eventually overcoming his darkest of demons.

    Danny was more difficult to sympathize with, even though he's portrayed as the "victim" in many cases, so scrawny and well, kind of a geek, as he is. His attitude is generally snobby and condescending (even on top of his acknowledgement of being at the bottom of the high school social ladder), but it helps shape the plot of the book; in fact, the shift we victoriously see within Danny is what shapes the entire climax, in the first place. While I can't say I immediately liked him, I can say he's a well-fleshed, well-written character essential to the book's procession. Cohen did an excellent job with the main characters.

    Leverage is vicious and emotionally searing, but there's a lyrical ending note that makes it all worth it in the end. Leverage is definitely a harsh ride, but there are some weighty issues within it that readers will pick up and take to heart. I am truly impressed with Cohen's accurate representation of the modern high school dynamic, his hard-hitting revelations on injustice and corruption within a sports system, and the disturbing, crude consequences of teenage bullying he reveals is prevalent in society today. The overall complexity and depth of this simply-presented novel astound me.

    Pros: Nothing is held back; raw, crude, vicious // Great portrayal of a high school // FOOTBALL! Need I say more? // Impressively dynamic characters // Intricate plot // Easy to read and follow

    Cons: Some characters are too stereotypical // Flow of the writing sometimes gets dull

    Verdict: Leverage is a coming-of-age football novel that holds no barriers and has no inhibitions. It will take your breath away and have your blood pumping madly; the adrenaline players feel, readers will definitely feel, and that rush—that delirious heart-pounding, throbbing, thrilling sensation—will reverberate effortlessly through their spines. Tragic, appalling, but all-the-while confident and anchored in tone, this young adult story about the power of perseverance and the importance of keeping courage—even if only for a few minutes longer—is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Fans will go wild over Joshua C. Cohen's stunning debut.

    Rating: 9 out of 10 hearts: Loved it! This book has a spot on my favorites shelf.

    Source: Complimentary copy provided by author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2013

               Leverage is not your average sport book. It goes deep

               Leverage is not your average sport book. It goes deep and shows ugly truth about high school and the story of a bullying taking to the next level. Its about two main characters that are opossite from one another. Kurt Brodsky, tall, big and strong but has a speech impedement that makes him stutter. Danny small,fragile and looks weak compared to Kurt, but he is a prodigy gymnast, that has potential to go to state.  In this book they needed together, to work together.They needed each others back.
               The author splits the book into two first-person perspectives, In the eyes of Kurt and Danny. Now this is interesting because it lets you have a feel of what the different opinions of the two about a situation. It really helps you to know them better, and helps you understand of what they feel to each other and see their connection. If you don’t understand a certain situation in a certain scene,  you might have a chance of understanding it better in a different perspective, but I doubt that someone will get confused in this book because it is pretty much straight forward.
            It also shares a great number of flashbacks, by understanding someone it helps you understand them better.  The author  made a great way to make you attached to the characters. It makes you wanna know more about them, be sympatethic when something happens, feel what they feel, and be happy when they are happy. This really makes you  turn the page everytime.
              If you ask me about the level suspensions and plot development ,  I guess theres not much things to say because  like I said earlier, the book is straight foward. There is not much twist in this book.  Pretty understandable. 
           This book is not for all the audiences, some mature content and a lot of cursing and vulgar words. Some stuff that are not approriate for children that are under  at least 13 years old. I think the author did way overboard about the cursing though, and pretty stereotypical about the football players in this book. 
         I suggest this book for the people who wants to kill some time and wants a good story. It is not a high vocabulary book and its pretty much focused on teens. This book has a good theme about overcoming fear, justice, and loyalty. I  give this book a rating of 3.8/5. Because it feels like the author is just being stereotypical about football  players and dumbed down the book to focus on teens.
    .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2012

    Leverage

    This nook was amazing. I couldnt put it down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 13, 2012

    Mr.15

    Best book ive ever read in years must see book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2012

    Great Read

    I'm Kira Davis, future ruler of this here universe and I support this message. Leverage was a thrill to read, it was by no means expected and I loved every second of t! Give it a shot, i promise you won't regret it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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