Seventeen-year-old Elise has the moves but lacks the speed, despite her best efforts and dedication. It is the middle of her final season of high school soccer, and Coach Berg informs the team that a UNC scout will be attending one of their games at the end of the month. Elise is in a panic; she must get into UNC if she is to follow in her family members' footsteps. Desperate to increase her performance and impress the UNC scout, Elise starts taking performance-enhancing pills. Almost instantly, she notices a positive effect as her speed on the field increases. As the month comes closer to its end, Elise is more dependent on her pills than ever, but they seem to have stopped working. Looking at her trim and fit teammates, she decides she needs not only to take more of the performance-enhancers but to lose weight as well. Instead of growing stronger, Elise is getting weaker. Her best friend Sophie discovers Elise's secret and starts to worry, warning her to stop. Elise ignores her friend, too consumed with her determination to get into UNC and make her parents proud. A part of the "Counterattack" series, this young adult book tackles some serious teenage issues, including eating disorders, negative self-image, and drug use. These issues are discussed sensitively and are appropriate for a middle school audience. The plot is fast-paced and there is little character development, yet the author is able to vividly convey the main character's emotions through her thoughts and actions. The overall look of the book and content is mature, which makes it appealing for middle school and high school students whose reading levels are below benchmark. Reviewer: Justina Engebretson
Soccer is everything for high school athlete Elise. Part of the Counterattack series about various teammates on a high school girls' soccer team, Berne's tale features senior Elise. In the spring season of her final year, Elise anticipates earning a place on a college team. She is thrilled to learn a scout from her parents' alma mater will be observing her team in a month, searching for potential freshman candidates. Desperate to make a stellar impression, Elise scrambles for a quick method to increase her competitive edge, naïvely deciding that the "Winners Athletic Supplements" she discovers are the solution. Berne examines serious issues young athletes encounter, including the tremendous pressure to succeed--whether it is self-imposed or driven by parental influence--and body-image concerns. Elise, lacking confidence in her skills and struggling with self-esteem, quickly makes a series of poor choices in her quest for instant perfection. Her anxieties further manifest in body-image issues, and she embarks on dangerously unhealthy eating patterns. Elise's deteriorating physical and emotional conditions are effectively sketched in this fast-paced, slim novel. Ultimately, events culminate in near disaster, which leads to dramatic changes in Elise's sports and life goals. Berne's discerning tale combines vivid sports descriptions with a compelling storyline. (Fiction. 12-18)
Emma Carlson Berne has written and edited more than two dozen books for young people, including biographies of such diverse figures as Christopher Columbus, William Shakespeare, the Hilton sisters, and Snoop Dogg. She holds a master's degree in composition and rhetoric from Miami University. She lives in Ohio with her husband, Aaron.