Soccer has always been a part of Lena and Amanda’s friendship. For six years, they have been an unstoppable team on and off the field: best friends and great teammates. Amanda is sure they’ll both make the varsity team in ninth grade and go on to win the state championship. But when Lena makes the cut and Amanda doesn’t, everything seems uncertain, and Amanda worries that her best friend is leaving her behind.
With Shutout, Brendan Halpin has created a powerful story of friendship, sportsmanship, and growing up.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||1 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 16 Years|
About the Author
Brendan Halpin is a teacher and the author of books for adults and young adults including the Alex Award–winning Donorboy, Forever Changes, and the Junior Library Guild Selection Shutout. He is also the coauthor of Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom, with Emily Franklin, and Notes from the Blender, with Trish Cook, both of which the American Library Association named to its Rainbow List. Halpin’s writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, Rosie and Best Life magazines, and the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column. Halpin is a vegetarian, a fan of vintage horror movies, and an avid tabletop gamer. He lives with his wife, Suzanne, their three children, and their dog in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.
Read an Excerpt
Lena slept over. Except for the times when we were on our separate little family vacations, we spent most of the summer together, and we probably slept at each other's houses two or three times a week. Lena likes to come to my house because her parents are nuts, I mean even in comparison to most parents. Also she has a crush on my brother. The one who's fifteen. I mean my stepbrother, except we never use the "step" part unless we're in a really big fight. The kid sees his dad like three weeks a year. We've lived together for forty-nine weeks a year since I was four, so it seems dumb to say he's anything but my brother. I have another brother, Dominic, who's eight, but he's actually my half brother, and Conrad's half brother too. Neither of us ever uses the "half" with Dominic no matter how annoying he is, which is very.
But I was talking about Conrad, my brother who has, I know from when he recently mooned me, developed butt hair, which is just about the grossest thing I can imagine. I'm pretty sure I'm into guys, sexual orientation–wise, but the sight of Conrad's hairy butt really made me question for a while whether that was a good idea. I mean, if I remain heterosexual, I will presumably be called on at some point to be naked with a guy, and he might have a hairy butt. I really can't imagine being so into anyone that I could overlook that.
I guess it's possible that Conrad is just a freak of nature and the only guy on earth who has butt hair. Well, he's certainly a freak of nature, but I don't know if that means he's the only guy with butt hair or not. Okay, this is really grossing me out. Let me talk about something else.
Like how Lena was over the night before the cut. We had both been playing our hearts out at soccer practice all week. Some people complained about working that hard in the hot August sun, but we were into that part of summer where the vacations are over and there's really nothing going on except worrying about school starting, so I was happy to have something to do.
And I loved soccer. It was fun, and I was good at it. Well, sort of. I mean, before the whole Sever's disease thing hit, Lena and I were a great offensive team. We'd charge up the field together, her in the center, me on the wing, passing all the way until one of us drew the defenders. Then it was cross to the other one, goal. It never even mattered to either of us which of us actually put the ball in the goal — they were all our goals. I remember Lena coming over after a game one day and when Dad, who'd been at Conrad's game, asked how we did, we both said, "We scored three goals!" in unison.
It seems kind of corny now, not to mention unbelievable that we didn't care which of us had two goals and which had one, but that's really how it was.
But then Sever's disease came to visit right about the time they moved us to playing on a bigger field, and suddenly I went from charging up the wing and crossing to my best friend to hobbling toward the goal, watching defenders pick off a pass I couldn't catch up to.
Still, I was lucky, because back then I had Lori as a coach. I was moping after one game because we would have had a chance to tie if I had been able to catch up to Lena's pass, but I couldn't, so we lost. Lori took me aside and said, "I want to ask you something."
"What do you think about playing goal?"
"Honestly? I kind of think it sucks. If I wanted to stand around waiting for something to happen, I would have signed up for softball."
"Well, listen," she said, "you have a gift for this game. And I know right now you can't run the way you'd like to, but I know you've scored enough goals that you can read people, when they're going to pass and when they're going to shoot and even where the ball is going."
"Um. Thanks. I mean, yeah, I guess I get that stuff."
"If you want to, I'll be happy to work with you on this. I know you can be as strong a goalkeeper as you were a forward."
Well, that was a pretty good pep talk, and so I did work with Lori on goalkeeping, and I got Lena to shoot on me all the time. Pretty soon we were the Twin Towers — Lena in the front and me in the back, and our team was unstoppable. Well, we would have been the Twin Towers, but Lena's only five feet four inches tall. So, okay, I was a tower and she was a Ferrari.
I guess this is going to sound conceited, but we were good enough that I didn't think it was crazy to hope we'd make varsity as ninth graders.
All the girls hoping to make the high school teams had been practicing together for the last two weeks, and whenever Lena and I got to play in a scrimmage, we were just as good as we'd always been. And Lena was unstoppable when we ran — I don't know how she goes so fast on her short legs, but she's easily the fastest girl on the team, including some of the senior girls who have these incredible muscly tree trunk thighs.
I, of course, can barely run at all before I start limping. But I did the right thing and talked to one of the coaches, Ms. Beasley, who is the younger and nicer of the two, about Sever's disease and how I'm probably almost done growing, so it shouldn't be a factor for long. I do have a hard time running, I said, but just watch me in the goal.
She made sure I got in the goal during scrimmages, and I saw her talking to scary, crusty Ms. Keezer whenever I made a save. Maybe she was just trying to tell Ms. Keezer about sunblock and moisturizers and how you could be a female sports coach without looking like a dried-up apple doll. But I hope she was talking about my awesome saves.
Anyway, it was the last day before they made the cut, and Lena was sleeping over. She was mad cheesy all night, trying to involve Conrad in conversations and stuff, and he is either clueless about Lena liking him, which is hard to imagine since she's so obvious about it, or else he doesn't like her, which is also hard to imagine since she's pretty and smart and grew a cup size in like a weekend this summer.
Or maybe he likes her and just doesn't know what to do about it, which is totally fine with me, because the two of them together would make my life awkward, not to mention gross.
Lena and I were in sleeping bags in a tent in the basement (yes, we're corny, and yes, there are perfectly good beds upstairs, but we have more privacy to talk in the basement and besides we like to have these little imaginary campouts like we're six years old). We were talking about the cut.
"I think we're both gonna make it," Lena said.
"I don't know," I answered. "Remember that big speech Ms. Beasley gave about how the younger players almost never make varsity and we have to pay dues and blah blah?"
"Yeah, but, I mean, not to be conceited, but we are pretty good. I feel like we're definitely in the top half of the girls there," Lena said.
"Yeah." I hoped that was true, but it was hard to believe with all these senior girls running around being awesome.
"Well," I said, "I think we'll probably only make JV, but that'll be cool because we'll get to play a lot, and we'll be together."
"Yeah," Lena said. "But it would be even cooler if we were together on varsity."
"Yeah," I agreed, "it would." We lay there for a while not talking, and even though I kept telling myself that ninth graders almost never make varsity, I could see the whole thing clearly — Lena up front, me in the goal, all the way to the state championship. The team had missed going to states last year, but this year they'd have the crucial puzzle pieces in place: us. We'd be just what they needed to push the team to the next level.
"What are you thinking about?" Lena asked.
"I was just imagining winning the state championship."
"I would totally take off my shirt like Brandi Chastain," Lena said.
I laughed. "I think you might get suspended if you did that."
"Well, we could both do it," she answered. "Then it would be like this great team moment of triumph, and even if we got suspended we could hang out and watch Bend It Like Beckham all day."
"Yeah, you know, I think I'd rather not turn this great moment of triumph into a great moment of humiliation when I strip off my shirt and everybody points and laughs and the league makes me pee in a cup to prove I'm female." Yeah, boobs are embarrassing, but I think actual boobs would be somewhat less embarrassing than these little pointy nubs I've got.
Lena laughed. "You so need a confidence boost, girl. I swear I have no idea how you look in the mirror and see what you see."
"A gigantic freak?"
"Yeah, that's what you see. I see this pretty girl with a supermodel body and a brain in her head that guys are going to be totally falling for next week."
"You sound like my dad," I said.
"I didn't say anything about you looking like somebody who's dead," Lena answered, and that was one of those things your best friend can say and it's funny and if anybody else said it you'd want to punch them.
"I guess you're right. Well, thanks. That's a nice fantasy. Almost as good as us making varsity and winning states."
"It's gonna happen," Lena said. "Just wait till tomorrow."
I drifted off to sleep imagining saving the tying goal in the state championship while my own personal cheering section of really tall guys — maybe the basketball team? — watched from the stands and held up homemade signs with my name on them.
We got up early, and Lena made goo-goo eyes at Conrad across the breakfast table while he read the sports section. It made me slightly nauseous, and I might not have eaten, but I knew we'd be running all day and I'd need my strength.
"So, did the Sox win?" Lena asked.
"Four–three over the Jays," Conrad replied as he took another bite of a poppy seed bagel. He had these little smears of cream cheese with dots of poppy seeds on his cheeks. He looked completely ridiculous. I thought about saying something to him, but I was afraid he might give one of his typical responses, like "And you've got something really ugly on top of your neck — oh, snap, it's your face!" Moron. How could Lena possibly like him? She was frantically trying to find something, anything else, to say after Mr. Scintillating Conversation had relayed the score of last night's game, but Mom came in and shut her down, or possibly saved her from saying some awkward, embarrassing thing that she'd kick herself for later.
"You girls all ready for your big day?" Mom asked, making herself a cup of herbal tea. I guess she had a big meeting or something, because she was wearing a suit. I looked at her and tried not to think about how unfair it was that I would never inherit those curves.
"Sure," I said. "You look great, by the way."
"You think? I was feeling like this skirt made me look a little hippy."
"At least you have hips," I answered.
Mom smiled. "Okay, Manda, you and I can play dueling bad body image later, maybe when Conrad's not around."
"Like he notices." I pointed to Conrad, who was still completely lost in the sports section.
"Point taken, but it's still bad form. Lena, how are you feeling about today?" "Okay. Nervous," she said.
"Well, you girls are great, but just remember how high school sports work. Seniors are going to get those varsity spots, and it's the right thing for the coaches to do. You'll want it that way when you're a senior."
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, we heard that the first five times you said it, Mom."
Mom smiled. "Okay, okay. It's going to be hot today — make sure you take two water bottles each."
Lena and I held up our huge bottles, already filled with ice water. "Excellent, girls. You have to stay hydrated. What about you, Conrad?" Mom asked.
Silence, and we all stared at Conrad, who stared at the paper.
"Conrad?" Mom waited for a minute, and when he showed no signs of having heard her, she raised her voice. "Conrad!"
He looked up. "You don't have to yell, Mom, God, I'm right here!"
"Obviously she did have to yell because you totally didn't answer her the first three times she asked you," I said.
Mom turned to me. "Amanda, don't parent. That's my job. Conrad, I just wanted to know if you have enough water for practice today."
"Yeah, my water bottle's in my room somewhere."
Mom took a deep breath. "We have a bin for all your soccer stuff. If you just used it, then you'd always know where your water bottle was."
"Got it, Mom, thanks," Conrad said as he disappeared into the paper again. Mom looked like she wanted to yell at him, but instead she topped up her travel mug and turned to go.
"Okay, I'm gonna be late," she said. "I love you all, have a great day, and remember that whatever happens, none of this is a referendum on your worth as people."
Five minutes later, Lena and I were on our way to the high school fields. My stomach felt tight and sour. I hoped I wouldn't puke. I was so nervous, which was stupid. I mean, most ninth graders get put on JV, no questions asked. I guess I thought if I made varsity, then when school started next week I would already be somebody.
Well, I would be somebody no matter what. I just thought it might be nice to be somebody besides the hugely tall ninth grade girl getting lost in the halls and feeling totally out of place. If I were on varsity, I'd be in with a lot of older girls, so I'd have a friendly face to ask if I had any questions, and when people talked about me, they would say how I must be a hell of a soccer player to make varsity as a ninth grader. Going into this new school with all these new people, I wanted to be somebody besides the Tallest Girl in the Class.
That's what I was thinking about on the way to practice. Lena, of course, was thinking about Conrad, who rode past us on his bike with a friendly "Later, losers." "I don't know, I think maybe he might like me."
"Well, did you see how long it took him to answer your mom? He was completely tuned out, but he answered me right away. Right? So, like, my voice is important to him or something. Right?"
"I think he was ignoring Mom just to be a dick, but okay," I said.
"Maybe you could ask him," she kind of half whispered.
"You want me to tell him you like him?"
"Oh my God no. That would be so embarrassing. I don't know, I thought there might be a way ..."
"You might not have noticed this, but we don't really talk about who we like, or much of anything else with each other," I said.
"Okay. Well, let me know if he does say anything."
We didn't say much else on the way to practice — I guess we were both obsessing.
We got to practice right on time, and everybody else was already there. The boys' soccer team was doing their usual thing where they stand around pretending to stretch while looking at the girls. But we were not doing what we usually do, which is pass and shoot and pretend not to notice the boys, especially that Duncan kid who's in the tenth grade and is almost too gorgeous to be real. I swear to God the guy must be an android or, like, an alien from Planet Hot or something.
Instead of pretending to ignore the boys, all the girls actually were ignoring the boys, sitting on the ground staring at crusty Ms. Keezer, who was standing there looking stern and holding a clipboard. She glared at me and Lena as we sat down. I looked at Ms. Beasley, and she gave me a friendly smile.
Ms. Keezer looked at her watch. "It's nine o'clock," she yelled in her scratchy, raspy voice, "and we have a lot of work to do today, so we're going to get this out of the way early. Ms. Beasley and I have made the decision about which girls are going to which squad. Listen carefully for your name as Ms. Beasley reads the JV list. Those of you on JV will be coached by Ms. Beasley, and you'll be practicing with her today. I'll be coaching varsity. Now, the school committee in their infinite wisdom forbids us from holding practice over Labor Day weekend, and our first games of the season are next Wednesday, which means we have only two practices between now and then. We need all of our practice time to try to get ready to compete by next week, so if you want to have a long, involved conversation about how our placement isn't fair and we should reconsider, please put your complaint in writing, and I'll make sure it gets filed appropriately." She shook a big plastic garbage can as she said this, and all the senior girls who knew they were making varsity anyway laughed, and the rest of us felt sick. Or maybe that was just me.
Ms. Beasley started reading names. It was alphabetical order, so it didn't take her long to get to Amanda Conant. (Yeah, I've heard the "Conant the Barbarian" joke a few times. Funny stuff.) Lena reached over and squeezed my hand as we waited for her name. Well, making varsity as a ninth grader was a stupid dream anyway, and at least we'd have the nice young coach instead of the scary old one.
Ms. Beasley read a bunch of other names, finishing up with Shakina Williams. Then she said, "Okay, if you heard your name, come with me. If you didn't, you'll stay here with Ms. Keezer, and congratulations." She took her clipboard and a bunch of girls got up immediately to follow her, and I sat there still squeezing the hand of Lena Zaleski, whose name hadn't been called.
Excerpted from "Shutout"
Copyright © 2010 Brendan Halpin.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Imagine trying to "fit in" in the first year of high school when you are an astonishing height of 5"11 (as a girl), you lost your mother at the age of 2, you didn't make the varsity soccer team(but your best friend did), and your best friend and you are in a fight over if true friendship or popularity is more important. That is basically, in a few words, the life of Amanda Conant. Amanda and Lena had been best friends ever since they could imagine, and on the soccer field they were "the unstoppable pair". They practically lived at each others houses and were inseparable. This all changed when Amanda suddenly developed aching heel pains and was diagnosed with Sever's Disease. Lena was still a tremendous soccer player that could charge down the field in a few seconds, but Amanda however, had to stumble to get over to the goal to try to play goalie. When Lena makes the cut for varsity and Amanda doesn't, their friendship takes a downward toll. Amanda feels herself being shut out of popular Lena's life more and more everyday. When Amanda feels as if her whole life is over, Lena and her whole varsity team make some bad choices and end up suspended from the champion state soccer game. Will Lena and Amanda make up? Will Amanda get the chance to play in the champion state game? These questions and more will be answered in the novel Shutout by Brendan Halpin. Brendan Halpin's novel about long lost friendship and soccer, is filled with suspense and twists and turns that make you never want to put the book down. This book is very relatable to soccer fans and adrenaline filled during some intense soccer matches. The novel is geared towards realistic and sports fiction fans, but is a good read for anyone.
Best book ever!
Shutout is a good book for ages 12-15. Summary: Amanda and Lena have been best friends forever, and have ruled the soccer field since. Entering their freshmen year of high school, both trying out for the soccer team. Amanda made junior, Lena made varsity. Lena soon finds popularity more satisfying than having a true best friend, and soon leaves Amanda alone, who must face betrayal and jealousy. I loved this book, except for the ending. Lena had walked into the locker room after one of Amanda's games and said sorry, but didn't say why she was sorry, so it's like she didn't even care. Then she started crying about her popular boyfriend who had pretty much started their fight, had broken up with her. This led me to believe that Lena just apologized because she had noone else to cry to.
"Shutout" is about a girl named Amanda. Amanda and her bestfriend sign up the the high school soccer team. Lena, her bestfriend made varsity and Amanda didn't. Sadly, becuase she has Sever's disease. She ends up being goalie for the JV soccer team. Before, Amanda had Sever's disease, her and Amanda played soccer like pros and played offense together. They made tons of goals. Amanda was shocked that she didn't make varsity. Soon, Her friend, Lena finds new friend. Lena doesn't have any classes with Amanda. She didn't have a bestfriend anymore. Lena gets mad at Amanda after a while. Soon, they make-up and become friends again.I liked this book because i love soccer. I recommend this book to others who like soccer. It can relate to a lot of people who didn't make a varsity team.
Amanda and her best friend Lena, the Twin Towers of their soccer team, the most valuable players -- that is until their freshman year rolled around and Lena made varsity while Amanda only made the JV team. Things slowly changed whether she(Amanda) liked it or not. Their "long lasting friendship" was tested as the two girls begin to live their lives farther and farther apart; Lena becoming Miss Popularity, not only laughing along and partying with the upperclassmen but with a hot sophomore soccer star at her side and Amanda making new friends, becoming an awesome goal keeper, and using yoga to calm her nerves and also to make an attempt at curing her heel pain.What I loved most about this book is the fact that I saw myself in Amanda. Being the goal keeper rather than a forward but loving - and being awesome - at my new position, having friendship problems with my "Twin Tower" friend, and finding hope beneath all the crap. This was a great read. I found myself finishing this book in one sitting, looking back into the character's adventures and comparing them with my own. Thumbs up!
Very entertaining book:)
Pretty good. But there could have been more details. 3 or 4 stars
It would be a lot better if it was about softball not soccer... just sayin...
I browed this book at the library and loved it . It teaches of betrayle but that you'll always find someone else .