Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With the same "you are there" immediacy that characterized his first novel, Wallace returns to the small-town setting from Wrestling Sturbridge; this time the game is soccer. Geared mostly for boys (the female teens in this novel are reduced to cats with sharpened claws), this play-by-play account of sophomore Barry (Bones) Austin's second soccer season balances sports action with introspective moments off the field. After finally breaking last year's losing streak (2-11-1), the Sturbridge High players are suddenly at 3-0 and psyched to win the league championship. But the coach says they must first "work together" as a team and overcome "personality conflicts"not an easy task for Bones, whose best friend Joe (a more aggressive forward) captured the attentions of flirtatious Shannon just when Bones was about to make his move. Wallace's ear for locker-room banter and knowledge of fragile adolescent egos shine through in his vibrant characterizations of young contenders. Young adults will gleefully cheer Bones on as he grows both as an individual and as an athlete, and hurdles personal obstacles to attain victory. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
High school can be a time for joy, angst, growing up, or retreating back into childish ways. For Herbie and Joey, this is a time for all of these and more. Best friends, always rivals on the soccer team, are now rivals for Shannon. Can you support your best friend and still be at odds with one another? When is the right time to put things into perspective, to just "grow up", or "deal with it"? Boys will especially enjoy the play-by-play action of the soccer games while reading this tale of rivalry and friendship.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-10--Life in a small town in Pennsylvania isn't too exciting for 15-year-old Bones and his buddies, but they find ways to amuse themselves. They focus on their soccer, hang out by the Turkey Hill convenience store, and watch girls. Bones and Joey have always been close friends, but suddenly things are different. It starts over a girl but quickly escalates into every part of their relationship--from soccer to their part-time jobs. The tension spreads to the rest of the team, causing problems between teammates and making the coach furious. It takes a while for them to resolve their differences, but both boys come out of the experience with some new knowledge about their lives, and about themselves. Wallace has created a cast of characters that is three-dimensional and interesting. The situations and emotions that Bones experiences are all very real, and young people will relate to them. This is a book that will appeal to many different readers, although non-sports fans may get lost in some of the detailed descriptions of the soccer games. The writing is simple enough to entice reluctant readers. A deftly written book, and a solid addition to any YA collection.--Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY
Wallace flattens the sophomore jinx in this taut, present-tense tale of an underdog high-school soccer team battling internal dissension, set in the same Pennsylvania town as his strong debut, Wrestling Sturbridge (1996).
Friends and soccer nuts since grade school, Barry and Joey bring new life to a team that was 2-11-1 last year, but their relationship is undergoing a power shift. Joey's need to dominate is getting on Barry's nerves, on the fieldwhere his reluctance to pass the ball is costing gamesand off: He cuts in on Barry's pursuit of Shannon, a luscious schoolmate. The more the buddies drift apart, though, the harder Joey plays, and through a series of exciting games he takes the team to a climactic try at the local league championship. Meanwhile, Barry arranges to be alone with Shannon at a party, and Joey retaliates by getting him fired from the inn where they both work. The friends' rift is healed by an exchange of knuckles and twin attacks of common sense. Wallace's teenage charactersall involved in athleticsare drawn from life and mostly likable; adults stay in the background, but Barry enjoys an unusually close relationship with his savvy college-age brother, Tommy, a font of good advice. Thanks in part to occasional descriptive asides, Sturbridge takes on a distinctive character, too: It's a small, ethnically diverse, sports-focused town, limited in its opportunities but not as confining as it seemed in the previous book. Engrossing fare.