Carter's (Crescent Moon) loosely connected short stories follow the on- and off-the-field travails of some members of the Argyle West high school football team (in Wisconsin), and the girls who love them. Tight end Kenneth Bauer and his girlfriend, Sarah, who edits the Purple Cow Literary Magazine, appear in several stories and are upstanding students, but even those less likely to succeed get their day in the sun here: "Big Chicago," a tough-looking transfer student stands up to bullies picking on an autistic teen and, as a result, finds he's valued for more than just his blocking abilities. Mouthy feminist Shauna, who loudly decries the sexist tradition of players signalling their "chosen female" by leaving their practice jersey on the girl's desk on game day, comes around when good guy Lenny leaves his jersey on her desk. Even the teachers come off as caring and conscientious. (The only irredeemable character, in fact, is the quarterback, whose fatal flaw is egocentrism.) There are no drugs in this school, the violence is restricted to knocking heads together on the field, and the sex limited to necking. The quaint and gently humorous goings-on makes these stories appropriate for even young middle schoolers as, despite the title, the thread that ties these stories together is neither love nor football but doing the right thing. Argyle High emerges as a safe, friendly and mostly fun place to go to school. Ages 12-up. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This loosely connected series of stories follows a group of friends through their sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school. Told by a variety of narrators, the stories reveal what is "true" in high school. The jocks, popular kids, brains, nerds, and outcasts all have a story to tell and all seem to have something to hide. Shauna is appalled by "Jersey Day," when mindless football jocks put their jerseys on the desk of a pretty, popular girl, marking her as his special girl for the day. So why does she hold her breath when she walks up to her own desk on "Jersey Day." Bill Patchet is big enough and strong enough to rip the water fountain right off the wall, and his 240 lb. frame is a formidable force on the football field. But is it possible he's happy when he blows out his knee on a tackle and ends his football career? Genuine voices describing real-life problems draw readers into this wandering but compelling narrative. A good way to get students talking about the ways teenagers hide what is bothering them. 2006, Holiday House, Ages 12 up.
Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
Alden Carter's most recent offering is a collection of stories following a group of young people through high school, football, and relationships. In typical Carter fashion, the narratives are set in rural Wisconsin, the characters are deeply sympathetic, and a strong sense of the Midwest permeates the book. While the book addresses serious themes, it is a genuinely funny book. Of particular note is the story "Pig Brains," in which our protagonist declares he is going to take Lithuanian fried brains with Cossack sauce to his social studies class as an example of food reflecting his ethnic heritage. This story would be an ideal read-aloud selection for high school students. Likely to appeal to both girls and boys, Love, Football, and Other Contact Sports is a well-crafted, gentle exploration of the extraordinary nature of ordinary adolescents. Secondary teachers can recommend this book for independent reading without reservation.
Carter's interconnected stories center around the Argyle West High School football team and friends. Ken Bauer, Argyle's tight end, gathers stories for the literary magazine at the urging of Sarah, his magazine staff member girlfriend. One story involves Ken modeling the peaceful resistance of Mahatma Gandhi to make an abusive defensive lineman understand the passiveness of the team trainer, Ramdas. The lineman, Bill, repeatedly berates Ramdas and shoves him in the hallway because of Ramdas's emphasis on keeping injured players off the field when the goal should be winning at any cost. Bill becomes further angered by Ramdas' quiet acceptance. After researching Gandhi's accomplishments, Ken becomes passive at a scrimmage without defending himself against Bill. Bill admits finally that it was the toughest scrimmage ever and comes away with a grudging respect for Ramdas. Other stories offer more humorous fare. Ken's best friend, Rollin, becomes infatuated with a girl on the cross-country team. To ensure her victory in a meet, Ken and Rollin end up running through the woods with a deer carcass. The book offers something for everyone-humor, sports, and romance. Most stories are deeper than they first appear, and the more receptive teen reader will find little life lessons in the antics and angst of the characters. Every story teaches acceptance and respect either for oneself or others and does so without browbeating or lecturing. It is a fine story collection with broad appeal and a worthy addition to any library. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).2006, Holiday House, 261p., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 8 Up-This upbeat collection of interrelated short stories is told from the points of view of the football players, the girls who date them, and assorted other students in a present-day Wisconsin high school. Diverse topics range from the humorous antics of a sophomore, forced by his parents to carry a briefcase to improve his image, who is then approached by the football coach, because "Any kid with guts enough to carry a briefcase can break a wedge," to a six-foot-plus "tough guy" volunteering to teach kids how to diaper and take care of their new siblings to a teen coming to terms with a middle-aged, retarded cousin who has just moved in. The narrators are male and female, with the predominant characters and their positions or roles listed at the beginning of each selection. This is a delightful, often hilarious, fast-paced read that offers truisms for life. It's a great selection for readers who aren't quite ready for Chris Crutcher's Athletic Shorts (HarperCollins, 1991).-Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
It isn't a sports story, nor romance. Instead, 14 short stories reveal the little lessons in life learned by small-town Wisconsin high-school kids-jocks and nerds, pretty and plain, smart and dumb. While football provides a motif, Carter's more common theme is standing up for the little guy. These kids are good people, mostly, who may not want to help some nerdy or retarded kid, but do it anyway. While each story stands alone, they progress in time and return to the same characters often, allowing readers to see them from different perspectives while avoiding stereotypes. A full portrait of Argyle High School emerges, a place where the biggest, dumbest jocks, the abused, the popular, the reclusive, or retarded kids can learn to shine brightly. For reluctant readers or advanced, funny, heartwarming, lovely stuff. (Fiction. YA)