Second Impact
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Second Impact

3.8 4
by David Klass, Perri Klass

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Kendall is football town, and Jerry Downing is the high school's star quarterback, working to redeem himself after he nearly killed a girl in a drunk driving accident last year. Carla Jenson, lead reporter for the school newspaper's sports section, has recruited Jerry to co-author a blog chronicling the season from each of their perspectives. When Jerry's best


Kendall is football town, and Jerry Downing is the high school's star quarterback, working to redeem himself after he nearly killed a girl in a drunk driving accident last year. Carla Jenson, lead reporter for the school newspaper's sports section, has recruited Jerry to co-author a blog chronicling the season from each of their perspectives. When Jerry's best friend on the team takes a hit too hard and gets hurt, Carla wonders publicly if injury in the game comes at too high a cost in a player's life—but not everyone in Kendall wants to hear it. . . .

David Klass and Perri Klass's Second Impact is an action-packed story that will resonate with readers who have been following recent news stories about football injuries.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“What is exceptional is the penetrating look at high-school football culture he provides via the school newspaper's sports blog. . . Klass and Klass still deliver a highly engaging, timely, and thought provoking read.” —Booklist

“The authors, an acclaimed writer for teens and a doctor well-known for her medical journalism, do a remarkable job incorporating both riveting sports action and sobering medical facts in the narrative. . . will resonate with aspiring journalists and teen sports fans alike.” —Kirkus Reviews

“... fans of sports novels and contemporary issues will find the story riveting.” —Publishers Weekly

“Written by a YA veteran with his sister, a pediatrician and medical writer, the book is highly topical and rich with current research.” —School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
The format occasionally gets in the way of the story in the Klass siblings’ message novel about the risks of head injuries to football players. School sports reporter Carla Jenson has come up with a brilliant idea: recruit star quarterback (and talented writer) Jerry Downing to blog about his senior season. Jerry—less than a year removed from a drunk driving accident that nearly killed a classmate—takes to the assignment, documenting his thoughts on school, football, and workouts. When he takes a hit to the head, Carla, the daughter of a doctor, starts looking into the effects of concussions on football players, finding the same disturbing results that have been in the news. The core story—Carla and Jerry’s mutual respect, the small-town love of athletics, and the dangers posed by ignorant but well-meaning coaches (and less ignorant and corrupt principals)—is fascinating and engaging. Alas, the blog format feels forced, and the huge posts (some as long as 25 pages) aren’t always believable in that context. Nonetheless, fans of sports novels and contemporary issues will find the story riveting. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)
VOYA - Lisa Martincik
Jerry Downing is making a comeback. After months of community service, he has been reinstated as Kendall High School's quarterback, and school sportswriter Carla Jenson has tapped him to blog for the newspaper website. The entire city of Kendall is following the Tigers' march to the championship, but a well-intentioned investigative report into sports injury may prove even more damaging than the injuries themselves. This collaboration between the Klass siblings takes the form of blog posts and private e-mails, and it is this format that will succeed or fail for many readers. The subject matter itself—football, community, sports injury, and the responsibility of journalism—provide plenty of compelling material to hang on to our two blogger protagonists. Jerry and Carla each see events from a different, well-explained viewpoint, and their interplay is both enjoyable and educational. High school sports, especially football, shine in a loving but complicated light. But limiting the first-person narratives to electronic communications means that no matter how honest and intimate (and wordy), those narratives never get into the characters' heads. Jerry clearly feels terrible about his drunk-driving accident, but his words alone cannot produce convincing emotional resonance. Carla's thoughts on personal ethics versus privacy standards are never fully explored. This is frustrating only because the book is otherwise entertaining and complex, taking no easy outs and doing a fine job of fleshing out the supporting cast of parents, friends, doctors, and teachers. Sports culture and censorship are never simple, but they have never been so much fun to read about. Reviewer: Lisa Martincik
Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
This novel addresses the subject of head injuries in sports, specifically those that occur in football. It is explained through two points-of-view in a series of blog posts and emails. Carla Jenson is the lead reporter for the school newspaper’s sports section. She recruits the high school’s star quarterback, Jerry Downing, to write a blog about the team’s football season. Jerry is trying to gain self-respect after a tragedy in his own life. His character growth is shown well throughout the story. When a team member receives a concussion, the reporter addresses the dangers in returning to the game too early after a head injury. But people in this football community of Kendall, New Jersey, do not want to hear about dangers from a concussion when a football trophy is possible for their Tigers. They ignore the warnings of a neurologist who speaks at a board meeting. The school principal orders the reporter to take down her blog about the issue. Carla and Jerry visit some patients at the local hospital who have received head injuries. They learn first-hand the aftermath and related problems from such accidents. They also talk with a doctor who works with brain injury patients. Their investigative reporting exposes the dangers of head injuries. One of the authors, Perri Klass, is a pediatrician who writes frequently about pediatric health issues. The information about head injuries is medically sound. This is an excellent book for school libraries so administrators, teachers, and students can be more aware of these effects, and not ignore potential consequences. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith; Ages 13 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Senior Jerry Downing is regaining his reputation as the star quarterback after a drunk-driving incident that nearly killed a classmate. Soccer standout Carla Jenson has convinced Jerry to share his thoughts about the football season on a blog, an extension of her sports coverage for the school newspaper. After enduring knee surgery, Carla turns her attention to sports medicine, particularly the evolving science of head injury. As the school's team advances toward the New Jersey state championship, her increasingly probing questions bring her greater scrutiny and eventually threats from the school principal, meant to stop her from interfering with the town's obsession, football. The story is conveyed in alternating blog posts by Jerry and Carla and fleshed out through emails sent between them. This format allows for differing perspectives as well as more private reflections shared between the main characters. But the device sometimes strains credulity. For example, 25-page blog entries and emails can run to well over 2000 words, which is difficult to imagine for high schoolers who see each other every day in school and presumably have phones. The story rises above its exposition, though. In a tense and touching moment, Jerry burns a timeout in a key game's waning seconds to confront his best friend, wide receiver Danny Rosewood, about the extent of a concussion suffered in a previous game. Written by a YA veteran with his sister, a pediatrician and medical writer, the book is highly topical and rich with current research.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Carla Jenson, sports reporter for her school paper, convinces Jerry Downing, star quarterback and excellent writer, to blog about the team's season--a novel idea with unexpected repercussions. Carla, an athlete in her own right, is somewhat of an outsider to the working-class community and school. Jerry has always been a centerpiece of the team, with one exception: a suspension caused by his involvement in a booze-filled party and a serious car accident. Since his punishment and return, he has been set on redemption. A torn ACL disrupts Carla's athletic career and causes her to focus on the physical vulnerabilities of players. This awareness drives Carla to pursue the sensitive issue of sports-related concussions even though she is opposed by Jerry and practically everyone else in the school and town as the controversy escalates. The story unfolds through their blog posts, comments to the posts and email exchanges, and readers learn about both characters and how much the adults in the school and community have invested in the issues. The authors, an acclaimed writer for teens and a doctor well-known for her medical journalism, do a remarkable job incorporating both riveting sports action and sobering medical facts in the narrative. Most of all, the passion that Carla brings to telling her story and the desire Jerry has for his team's success will resonate with aspiring journalists and teen sports fans alike. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Second Impact

By Perri Klass, David Klass

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2013 David Klass and Perri Klass
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-37996-4



Posted by user JERRY on November 2 at 9:00 p.m.

On game day, I usually wake very early and lie in bed thinking things over. I've got a small room with one window that faces east, so the first light filters through the curtains and hits my trophy shelves at about six a.m. Most of my trophies have miniature gold football players on top, and when the light strikes them, the figurines seem to come alive and play a little game. I lie in bed and watch them and think how dumb I was, and how lucky I am to get a second chance.

You all know what happened. Everybody knows what happened. Lots of people screw up and no one ever hears about it, but what I did was posted on the Internet and written about in newspapers, and it even made local TV. Some of the hardcore fans in town felt it was the worst thing to befall Kendall since the church burned down.

I'd like to say that what happened that night last October was a freak occurrence, that it was the first time I'd been to a keg party or the first time I drank too much and did something stupid. But that wouldn't be telling it straight.

Okay, here's some honesty. It's very hard to be the quarterback of the high school football team in a town like Kendall and not have it turn you into an arrogant jerk. You're anointed at age twelve. You are the star. Girls want to talk to you, even though deep down you know you're not that brilliant or charming. Guys want to be your friend. Gradually, you start to think you can do no wrong—or at least that's the idiotic conclusion I came to.

There are a lot of football towns like Kendall in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas, but not so many in New Jersey. When you push in through the doors of Kendall High, it's not a coincidence that the first thing you see is the enormous trophy case. There must be five hundred trophies inside, some of them dating back nearly a century. When I lie in bed watching the morning light hit my own much smaller trophy collection, I can feel the weight of that forest of school trophies and the tradition behind them.

"Pride," Coach Shea always says on the first day of a new season. "It's all about pride." I think he's right. For our town it was always about pride. Years ago, when we had our amazing run and won three state championships, I used to sneak into the games with my friends, wriggling under the fence because we couldn't afford the buck ticket. Those were hard times for a lot of people in our town, and it was thrilling to see the pride in people's faces as they stood up to cheer, as if our town was going to war against another town, winner take all, with no quarter asked for or given.

On game day, I remember those faces as I get out of bed and pull on some sweats. My parents are still asleep, and our house is dark and quiet. I walk downstairs in my socks, holding my sneakers so as not to wake my dad, who works the late shift as a security guard at a warehouse. I slip out the door and stretch on our front lawn, and then I head up Sylvan Avenue at a fast jog.

Here's the truth, the stinking truth, and nothing but the lousy truth. I had been to dozens of parties like that, and I had done worse things. I don't want to write them down because they involve other people who are still my friends, but I had bullied kids. I broke a kid's nose. I teased girls and sometimes it got out of hand. And I got away with it because when you're the quarterback of the Kendall football team, who's going to blow the whistle?

Two blocks away I stop at the house of my best buddy, Danny Rosewood, and rap gently on his back door. Danny is always dressed and ready, and he slips out the back and joins me. He puts on headphones and runs to music, but I like to hear the sounds of the world waking up. We don't need to talk. Danny feels the same weight that I do on game day. I have to throw the touchdowns, and he has to catch them.

Danny is the fastest kid in our school—and possibly in the entire county—but he's a sprinter, and when it comes to grinding out the miles, I can stay with him. We soon leave the town behind and run past the factory, with the chains on the gate and the busted windows. Then there are the fields—corn and alfalfa—and after that the first stubby trees and soon the pine forest takes hold.

Danny listens to Usher, but I listen to the wind in the pines and the birds and my own breathing. The run helps relax me, and even though we don't talk, it gets Danny and me in the same space. I bet a lot of people don't realize how close a quarterback and a wide receiver have to be to get it right. It's not enough that we practice the routes endlessly, both with the team and on our own. We have to be able to anticipate each other's actions and think almost with one brain.

Danny was there that night at the Sullivans' party, but he never drinks because his dad's a cop. He left early, but my other friends stayed late, standing around the keg in the backyard, cracking jokes and making small talk with a few girls.

I can't remember who suggested we head to the reservoir for a late-night swim. I do remember a little argument about whether I was sober enough to drive, and me getting into my car and switching on the ignition and grabbing the wheel and saying, "Get in or get left behind." And they got in, three buddies from my team and two girls I barely knew, one of them just a ninth grader.

Why did I get behind the wheel that night? Why didn't I let someone else drive, or just stay at the party? I was the quarterback, the go-to guy, the leader of the pack, and things like alcohol that derailed other, lesser people had no effect on me. I was invulnerable, immune, all-powerful, and so when I said get in or get left behind, they piled in.

The road to the reservoir is narrow and winding. I remember driving out there in the moonlight, feeling totally in control, while my buddies were passing a bottle back and forth and fooling around. I didn't drink on the way out, but I made up for it once we got there.

No doubt you've seen the photos that got posted and texted until they went platinum on local and even national news. I don't know who took them, and I don't care. Because yes, it happened. Yes, I was doing shots and, yes, I stripped and went for a swim and, yes, I was the one tilting the wine bottle while a fifteen-year-old girl in her underwear drank.

Danny veers off at his house, and I do a final sprint to my front door, and even on the coldest game days I'm sweating and loose. I jump in the shower and get dressed in jeans and my game shirt and go down to breakfast.

Dad is usually at the kitchen table when I get there, reading the paper and eating cereal. He always asks something silly on game day, like "Hey, bean-head, how's the old chicken wing?"

"Loose as the caboose on a goose," I tell him.

Mom ambles into the kitchen right about then and usually hands out some free diet advice. "Carbs," she'll urge. "Eat toast so you don't get toasted."

"No one's gonna toast me today," I assure her, and she gives me a look. I catch myself. "Yeah, carbs, thanks," I say quickly, and fix myself some toast with strawberry jam, and maybe a banana or a protein bar.

I walk the half mile to school and stow my stuff in a locker, and soon I'm walking the halls in my game shirt. Part of the reason I wear it is for luck, and part of it is for team unity, but I admit that I still like to show off and strut a little bit. Last year, as a junior, I felt proud to saunter down the hall in my jersey with its captain's stripe. They made Danny the captain when the school suspended me last season, so I no longer have the stripe, but I'm still the quarterback.

When it's game day and you're going to be running the team, everyone watches you. They don't always ask the questions out loud 'cause they're afraid they're going to jinx you, but from class to class, from homeroom bell to dismissal, everyone's excited and keying on you. "How's the arm?" they're wondering. "Are you feeling good?" "Are we going to win today?" The tension builds inside of me from hour to hour, till I can barely stand it.

After school we go suit up, and it's like putting on your armor with the rest of your army. My locker's right next to Danny's, and we go over our routes one last time. I do some deep breathing and extra stretching that my mom taught me, and Coach Shea calls us in for a talk.

The Supreme Court has ruled that team prayers are illegal, but when Coach finishes, we stay down on one knee and have a silent minute. I can guarantee you that most of the guys are saying a prayer—not just for victory, but that they'll play well and come through the game okay. We're fired up and ready for action; at the same time, we all know the risks of going to war.

And it does feel like war when we stand up and enter the tunnel. You can hear the band playing our fight song and our fans screaming outside and stomping on the bleachers. We draw five thousand to home games, and let me tell you, they can be loud.

We run toward the field exit, and Coach Shea likes me to run out last. I wait and listen as the roar builds, and I take a second and remind myself of who I am and what I've been through and how lucky I am to get a second chance. Then I follow Danny out of the tunnel, into daylight, between the line of cheerleaders, and I raise my arms, and the crowd roars.

There's always some kid watching me who probably crawled under the fence, and if he gets close enough he'll ask for my autograph. I take the pen and I sign, and I know what he's thinking. I see that look of hero worship in his eyes, and I remember driving back from the reservoir at forty, fifty, sixty miles per hour and a scared girl's voice in the back begging me to slow down. But I didn't slow down, I sped up, because I owned those turns, I owned that midnight highway, I owned the whole moonlit world, and nothing could touch me. And then I remember the horrible shriek of the tires, and wrestling with the wheel, and the sickening, exciting, electric jolt of certainty that it was really happening and we were all going to die a second before we veered off the road and crashed down a slope into the trees.

What I remember next is all the police and ambulances, and my first thought—what a surprise—was for myself. Surely I had busted myself up big-time and football was gone forever. But the weird thing was that everything felt okay. While they fished me out of the accordion of a car, I took inventory—I moved my arms and my legs—and then they tried to load me on a stretcher but I stood up. An EMT tried to push me back down, but I actually shoved him away. Because I sensed the truth then. I could hear someone moaning. The ambulance crew was focusing on one of us. I glanced over and saw just enough to realize it was the freshman girl whose name I didn't even know.

I remember going to the hospital and getting checked out, and then the police started asking me questions.

I recall the expressions on my parents' faces when they came and heard it from my own lips.

A stern lady judge with white hair gave me a speech I will never forget if I live to be a hundred and fifty. "You are getting a second chance that you probably don't deserve," she said, staring right into my eyes. "Look around this courtroom at all the family and friends who have come today to support you." I obeyed her command and looked at them, and they didn't know whether to meet my gaze or look away. "You have disappointed all of them," she said. "But even worse, you have hurt someone very badly. I've thought long and hard about this, and I'm going to give you a second chance, Jerry Downing. Find it in you to make them proud again. Don't make me regret this."

I remember my speech to the team, when I apologized to them and left them there in their armor and walked away from my army.

Then came a month of community service, picking up litter on Main Street, and everybody in Kendall who drove by knew who I was and why I was doing it. Some people honked. A few slowed and shouted insults. Most drove by in silence.

It's game day. I'm the quarterback. We go into our pregame huddle. The excitement that has been building all day reaches a crescendo. My senses come alive in a way that's almost freakish. I can see, hear, feel, taste this coming football game. It all revolves around me. If I want a towel to wipe my hands, a team assistant will bring it. If I want a drink of water, I have only to wave. It would be so very easy to get sucked in again. "Ready?" Coach Shea asks.

Am I ready? I take a second. Look around the football field at the fans in the bleachers and the goalposts and the American flag flapping high above.

And then I close my eyes and lower my head and say a prayer, very different from the ones my teammates whispered to themselves in our locker room. The crowd is roaring, and my heart is thumping, and I know how lucky I am to have this second chance.

I open my eyes and look at the coach and nod. "Ready."

"Then let's go," he says. And the game is on.



Posted by user CARLA on November 3 at 8:00 a.m.

I know what you're thinking. You're wondering why I would sign up Jerry Downing to write for the paper and expect you to read his stuff. You saw his space, all set up with a new blog, right in the middle of the Kendall Kourier Web site, so his photo was the first thing you saw when you opened us up this morning—and you're probably wondering if I've been bought. You're thinking, Why does the football team need more attention? Don't we get to see enough photos of Jerry Downing in the news? Or, depending on which photos you're remembering, maybe you're thinking, The guy's a bum, he may be a half-decent quarterback, but how proud can you be of someone when you're also ashamed of him? Or maybe you're just thinking, Shut up and play football.

Okay, but what did you think of his writing? It took me by surprise, and that's why it's up here. So don't yell at me about who you think I am or who you think Jerry Downing is, or was, or will be, just put all that aside and tell me what you thought of "Game Day." Post a comment, let us have it, Jerry and me.

As I say, this whole thing took me by surprise. There I was in honors creative writing, day one, and I tell you, I didn't have particularly high expectations for Jerry Downing, to put it mildly. I thought what anyone would think: they've stuck another dumb jock in here who is looking for an easy course, looking to read no books, download some dumb essay off the Internet, hand it in. Tough luck, Jerry, you were badly advised, I thought. Mr. Cooper is one of the toughest teachers in this school, the reading list is a killer, and you'll have to write your aerobically overdeveloped athletic heart out—and then watch Mr. Cooper and the rest of us tear it apart.

And then, like Mr. Cooper could read my mind, he asked Jerry to read first. And right there and then I decided I'm signing this guy up. He has things to say, and it's his voice that we should hear narrating this football season. So let's all put aside our prejudices, whatever they may be, and welcome our new columnist, Jerry Downing.

Oh, and you know perfectly well what I mean by prejudices. Some people think he would have to be dumb. Well, he's not. Some people think he's a degenerate who brought shame on our team and our school and he should either be kicked off the team (if you think Ryan Hurley did an okay job as qb finishing off the last season) or maybe (if you think Ryan Hurley is out of his depth) Jerry should be allowed to play quarterback but otherwise keep his head down and his mouth closed and his pants on (sorry, Jerry, but if you're gonna be out here, on the blog, you better learn to take a joke).

(And don't worry, Ms. Edison goes over everything before it goes up—that's what happens when the First Amendment meets high school journalism—and she'll probably take out that gag about the pants, and she'll certainly take out this whole parenthesis; she hates how I'm always sticking in long parentheses.) [Edit by user Ms_Edison: Happy to have a conversation, either online or off, about the First Amendment, but don't think you can always rely on me to be saving you from your parentheses! I think you'll find that a really good writer finds the way to make her important points in the body of the text and does not have to resort to long parenthetical asides.]


Excerpted from Second Impact by Perri Klass, David Klass. Copyright © 2013 David Klass and Perri Klass. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Klass is a screenwriter and the author of many young adult novels, including most recently Stuck on Earth, which Publishers Weekly called "a thoughtful, often wrenching book [that] offers plenty to think about." He lives in New York City.

Perri Klass is a pediatrician and contributor to the New York Times as well as an author of several books for adults. She is also professor of journalism and pediatrics at New York University. Second Impact is her first book for teens. She lives in New York City.

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Second Impact 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This interesting book has a very different perspective on football than the usual riffraff of sports articles and magazines. From the viewpoint of a former star player and a dedicated school blog reporter, many likely senarios are thrown into the spotlight and looked over with much interest. A great concern is put to the test as the former athlete takes an interest in his blog and finds himself friends with his new partner in the studying of sports related injuries. This is a highly recomended work fit for all ages! (LAST STATEMENT IS A PERSONAL OPINION, DUE TO COMPLICATED THEMES AND TOPIC INTEREST, I WOULD RECOMEND THIS BOOK TO GRADE LEVELS 7+)
skstiles612 More than 1 year ago
This is a unique book.  It is told through blog posts.  I kind of reminded me of Patrick Carmen’s Skeleton Creek series where you have one point of view told through video and one point of view told through emails.  In this book we meet Jerry who was the captain and quarterback of his high school football team.  A year before we are introduced to him we are told about a drunk driving accident he was involved in that cost him dearly.  Not only did he lose his captain position and get suspended, but he almost killed his car’s occupants.  The judge gave his a second chance.  That is a theme within this book. The other point of view is from Carla, a former soccer player and now a journalist on her schools blog. She had been injured while playing soccer.  This made her realize that sometimes injuries are more serious than a coach wants to believe.  Jerry’s best friend sustains a concussion during a game.  This is enough to send Carla off looking for answers.  She is looked down on and listed a trouble maker because her thoughts are uncomfortable and something coaches and principals of winning teams don’t want to look at.  I found this book to come at a very appropriate time as one of my sixth grade students sustained a severe concussion while playing football, and it affected him in multiple ways.  At the same time we have two other students who had sustained concussions playing sports.  It has affected their ability to learn.  This book is a wake-up call to parents and coaches everywhere.  When given a second chance in life take it.  Don’t look at life and decide, oh well that’s just a part of the risk.  You have to ask yourself if the risk is too high. In Jerry’s case he is forced to look at a situation and make a decision.  Did he make the right one?  Read the book.  This is one of the best books I’ve read this year and it was snatched up before it ever hit my school shelves. I received a copy of this book for review.  The opinions expressed here are my own. I received no compensation for my review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You Should read this book! In my opinion it was really good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dislike football its gay