If You Only Read ONE Sports Book, Make It THIS One!
Tessa is a great athlete-- she runs in a local race with her friends Marina and Lexie and wins first place, putting her on the radar of the high school cross country coach. She is also passionate about football, which she has played in the park for years with her friend Caleb. Since the boys with whom she has played will be spending their time practicing with the high school team, Tessa is crushed when she botches an important play in the last game she may ever play, especially when Caleb and the other players are approached by the high school coach and invited to summer football camp. Tessa would like to participate as well, at least long enough to have some redeeming moment. She knows that it's nothing groundbreaking, but her interest bubbles up in an interview the news is doing with her mother, who is running for mayor. Caleb's not sure how he feels about this. He knows that Tessa is a phenomenal player, and he would like to see her on the team, but he's afraid of how his peers will treat her, and also how they will treat him if his girlfriend is "the football girl". Caleb has a few family conflicts, since his older brother is not joining the family business, and Tessa's parents are consumed with her mother's political career. Tessa's time at football camp ends up being less newsworthy than everyone imagines, but will she be able to prove herself? And what really is she proving?
Both Tessa and Caleb are portrayed realistically, in both their own feelings and how they treat each other. Granted, they both exhibit ideal behavior in the end, but I'm a big proponent of positive thinking and productive example! The two are friends who slowly like each other more. They make missteps. They do outright stupid things. But ultimately, they make sense of their world and make the best possible choices, and Caleb is able to say exactly the right thing to Tessa.
The families and community are great as well. They don't drop everything as this unfolds. It's not the biggest drama in the world to them, but they acknowledge that it is to Caleb and Tessa. I especially loved that the coach didn't really blink. We're not really sure if he thinks Tessa won't make it, if he just doesn't want to bother, or if he truly believes Tessa will be fine on the team. He just lets her play. Isn't that what we want?
For teachers and librarians who never read sports books-- if you only read one football book in your entire career, let it be this one. Heldring manages to capture the reality of modern day feminism from both the male and female viewpoint, and presents it in a compact (under 200 pages!), interesting way that is laced with enough football language to appeal to readers.
Stealing Tessa and Caleb's moment that is captured by a local news photographer, I truly want to hold hands with this book on the top of a hill at sunset. Run as fast as Tessa can run to get your copy right now.