Lipsyte's (The Contender) latest sports drama is a riveting and chilling look inside contemporary high school football, starring captain and wide receiver Matt Rydek. Matt's intense focus on winning a scholarship is driven in equal measure by his love of the game and his desire to escape from his maniacal father. As the novel opens, the local gym owner injects a syringe of "all-pro cocktail" into Matt's buttocks. Steroids use, however, is not the most frightening aspect of the book. The real action begins during the last week of football camp, before the start of the season. Nearmont High's coaches are excited by the arrival of Chris Marin, a talented sophomore transfer student. Less thrilled is Matt's co-captain, Ramp, a brutish homophobe, whose starting position Chris could win. On the last night of camp, the traditional hazing turns into a sexual assault, which all the seniors witness. The adults, fearing scandal, hear rumors but adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, mirroring their stance on steroid use. As co-captain, Matt knows he would risk everything his friends, his senior season, his future if he goes to authorities. Lipsyte exposes the underbelly of high school sports where racism, drug use, misogyny and bullying are shrugged off so long as the team wins. Matt has a soul-crushing choice to make and Lipsyte's careful rendering of the world in which Matt moves gives his story an awful and terrifying ring of truth. Ages 14-up. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Raiders Rule! Raiders Rule! Raiders Rule! Chanted at team meetings and growled by players to motivate hesitant teammates, these catchwords pressure an entire community to come in line with the team mindset. Star receiver Matt Rydek embraces the madness, selfishly planning to parley his talent to a Division I scholarship. Veteran author Lipsyte knows sports and his book's football scenes are spot on. More important, a believable tone describing the reckless macho behavior penetrating high school athletics weaves throughout the novel. Players juicing their bodies with steroids, partying hard with drugs and alcohol, and hazing underclassmen are things brushed off because boys will be boys. What is good for the team is good for everyone, and adults simply accept the dangerous conduct as a trade-off for wins. Chris, a sophomore transfer and gifted player, becomes a threat to the team's inner ring leadership, and Raiders Night-an initiation for newcomers-spins out of control. Seniors justify the abuse-involving definite homosexual undertones-as Raider Pride. As a result, Matt becomes emotionally torn between the decision to rat out his teammates or maintain the status quo. The novel's flaws are minor. Adult characters are mostly one-dimensional and several pop in but disappear, and readers never get to know them. Graphic descriptions of steroid use tantalize readers, but they fall off the pages when the main conflict kicks in. In the past year, several realistic sports books have made a splash in the young adult market, and this one continues a developing trend. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, HarperCollins, 240p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
Former sports journalist and YA author Lipsyte tackles the dangers of hazing and steroids in this raw and thought-provoking tale of a high school football star faced with some tough choices. The Raiders have a shot at the state title, and Matt, co-captain of the team, is expected to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. That includes shots of "juice" to make him stronger, but does it include overlooking what happens at football camp, when Chris, a new teammate, is raped with a bat by Matt's out-of-control co-captain? Everyone, even Matt's tough-guy father, wants the incident to be swept under the rug. Then Chris shows up in the locker room with a gun, revenge on his mind. The sports action here is as convincing as the off-field action, which includes Matt's home life with a developmentally disabled brother he protects from his bullying father, lots of partying, a shallow, nasty ex-girlfriend, and an understanding new girlfriend. (The vocabulary is equally realistic; if this were a movie, it would be R-rated.) In an afterword, Lipsyte briefly refers to the values, good and bad, of jock culture and its "dark corners" as well, and provides websites for himself and a sports psychiatrist if readers want to share their own experiences. KLIATT Codes: SRecommended for senior high school students. 2006, HarperCollins, 240p., Ages 15 to 18.
Gr 9 Up-The Nearmont High School football team and the adults who support it see winning as the ultimate goal, even if it means resorting to illegal steroids. The players are the toast of the town, enjoying wild parties, drugs and alcohol, and girls who offer casual sex. Matt Rydek, one of the team's popular stars and a cocaptain, is torn between two girls and deals with a pushy father who lives vicariously through him. During preseason camp, the obnoxious and angry cocaptain, Ramp, assaults Chris, a new sophomore player and the object of his jealousy, and violates him with a baseball bat. The stunned upperclassmen, including Matt, don't tell anyone what they have witnessed, and although the coaches eventually learn the facts, they attempt to keep them quiet and pacify Chris to prevent a scandal. When Chris finally confronts Ramp with a gun, Matt must make some serious decisions about revealing the truth. Realistically gritty language peppers on-the-mark dialogue in this disturbing tale of bullying and competitive fury taken too far. Matt is a strong character believably confused by the mixed messages he gets from those around him, including his father. The alarmingly clear depiction of athletes trying to conceal hideous violence is reminiscent of that in Erika Tamar's Fair Game (1993) and Nancy Garden's Endgame (2006, both Harcourt). Lipsyte has added to his repertoire a remarkable, tough, important story exposing various negative elements that are far too common in today's world of sports.-Diane P. Tuccillo, City of Mesa Library, AZ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
When a hazing event at team camp leads to sexual abuse against a fellow player, co-captain and star running back Matt Rydek is caught in the middle. What do you do when doing the right thing would wreck the football program, get people arrested and cost him a Division One scholarship? In a sports novel that packs a wallop, Lipsyte takes readers into the dark corners of the locker room and Jock Culture and doesn't let them look away. It's a sordid tale of steroids and painkillers, racism and homophobia, bullies, and misguided businessmen and fathers. It's a world where team overrides conscience, until Matt comes to know what he must do to set things right, even if it means losing everything he thought he had. An important work for the high-school athlete and anyone concerned about what sports might be doing to today's kids. (acknowledgments) (Fiction. 14+)