I’ve had a lot of success recommending this funny, subversive sports story.
Recommended grade level: 7 and up
Pages: 320 (for ISBN 9780374301361)
Summary: At Jack Logan’s sports-crazy New Jersey high school, the new rule is that all kids must play on a team. So Jack and a ragtag group of anti-athletic friends decide to get even. They are going to start a rebel JV soccer team whose mission is to avoid victory at any cost, setting out to secretly undermine the jock culture of the school. But as the team’s losing formula becomes increasingly successful at attracting fans and attention, Jack and his teammates are winning in ways they never expected—and don’t know how to handle.
Who will like this book?: This is a tongue-in-cheek treatment of the overzealous student sports culture that readers will become more familiar with when they reach high school. Its humor will reach a broad audience. It should appeal to readers who consider themselves bad athletes as well as to sports players.
Who won’t like this book?: This isn’t quite like your typical (think Mike Lupica) sports story, mostly because a lot of the characters either are not interested in or dislike sports, and because the goal is not to win. There are characters who like sports, and it doesn’t paint sports in a bad light (just people who take sports way too seriously to the point that they are damaging themselves and others). So I think this book will appeal to most sports readers, but it’s not going to be quite what they’re used to.
Other comments: This makes a great booktalk. Talking about how the principal races the track team members and runs so hard he dies always gets a reaction.
Readalikes: I wish there were more books like this: humorous, and/or light stories integrating sports into a larger plot. For more mature readers, try Swim the Fly by Don Calame. David Klass’ other book Grandmaster is also a good one. If they’re sports readers and haven’t exhausted Mike Lupica, Tim Green, and John Feinstein yet, those are good authors to check out.
Image credit: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23310743-losers-take-all