Game Changer

 
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Game Changer
Publisher
Age Range
10+
Release Date
September 11, 2018
ISBN
978-1419731433
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Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood is in a coma fighting for his life after an unspecified football injury at training camp. His family and friends flock to his bedside to support his recovery—and to discuss the events leading up to the tragic accident. Was this an inevitable result of playing a
violent sport, or was something more sinister happening on the field that day? Told in an innovative, multimedia format combining dialogue, texts, newspaper articles, transcripts, an online forum, and Teddy’s inner thoughts, Game Changer explores the joyous thrills and terrifying risks of America’s most popular sport.

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Concussions and social media

At the end of summer football camp for the Walthorne Wildcats, Ted Youngblood collapses as he comes off the field and ends up comatose in the hospital. Told in dialogue, texts, interviews and chat boards by Ted's parents and sister, his doctors, his teammates and others from school, we slowly find out why Ted ended up being injured. We also hear from Ted from the underwater depths of his coma. Ted's parents are divorced, so are not always in agreement as to the treatment of their son. Camille, who is the coach's daughter and has an interest in Ted, starts a chat board, but not all of the postings are supportive. One commenter in particular, Clea, keeps bringing up the idea that Ethan, who hit Ted, did it on purpose. As we go back and forth and hear the reactions of the different characters to the events, we find out more about the culture of football in the school and the deep emotional attachment that the characters have to football, and watch as Ted slowly makes his way out of the depths of injury to re enter the world and reflects on what has happened.

Good Points
There has been a lot of discussion lately about the age of characters in middle grade books, and how having one in 8th grade or high school tends to make the book "young adult". I think this is incorrect. 6th, 7th, and 8th graders love to read about high school students, so the fact that Ted is in middle school but participating in a high school camp is brilliant. There aren't many sports books that discuss summer conditioning programs, so it was interesting to read about this one, even if most of the events occurred after the camp itself. The format does make this a quick read, and will make it popular with fans of Alexander's The Crossover or Myers' Monster. Personally, I adore Greenwald's regular narrative style, so would have preferred this to be in a standard format like The Real Us so that I could have gotten more background information.

While we don't get a lot of information about each character, we are able to observe a lot of their interactions. With very few words, we get a lot of insight into what the members of the football team are thinking. They love the game, they love the violence of it, and they want to be a part of a group with traditions. They manage to cultivate these things without the coach really understanding what is going on. That was a nice touch-- while it was a little disturbing that the coach didn't know what was going on, it was good to see that he hadn't condoned it and took steps to change the culture after it was brought to his attention.

Aside from investigating the highly relevant topic of concussions, this book also touched on the topics of internet citizenship and divorced parents, and scrutinized high school culture with sympathy and insight. Graced with one of the best covers I have ever seen on a football book, Game Changer is a timely look at how a beloved sport might not be serving its participants well. Buy two copies for schools where sports books are popular, because this will quickly wear out!
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