The Football Girl

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The Football Girl
Age Range
12+
Release Date
April 04, 2017
ISBN
9780385741835
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For every athlete or sports fanatic who knows she's just as good as the guys. This is for fans of The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, Grace, Gold, and Glory by Gabrielle Douglass and Breakaway: Beyond the Goal by Alex Morgan. The summer before Caleb and Tessa enter high school, friendship has blossomed into a relationship . . . and their playful sports days are coming to an end. Caleb is getting ready to try out for the football team, and Tessa is training for cross-country. But all their structured plans derail in the final flag game when they lose. Tessa doesn’t want to end her career as a loser. She really enjoys playing, and if she’s being honest, she likes it even more than running cross-country. So what if she decided to play football instead? What would happen between her and Caleb? Or between her two best friends, who are counting on her to try out for cross-country with them? And will her parents be upset that she’s decided to take her hobby to the next level? This summer Caleb and Tessa figure out just what it means to be a boyfriend, girlfriend, teammate, best friend, and someone worth cheering for.

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Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
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Characters 
 
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5.0

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?

Good Points
This book had so many perfect lines and situations that I want to quote half the book right here, but it would ruin it. There are tiny moments of surprise and revelation at every turn, and they are written in such a subtle and sweet way. It's an issue book that proves that a lot of times, the issue is really being true to oneself and ones goals. I want to hand this book to every single reader I have who loves sports!

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.
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(Updated: May 09, 2017)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
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5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0

A Fun Sports Book with a Great Message

An amazing book with appealing characters.

Good Points
Tessa Dooley loves running with her friends Marina and Lexie, but also enjoys playing football with Caleb McCleary and other boys. She is hopeful that there could be something more between her and Caleb. When she loses her final football game with them, she is dejected, especially when a coach approaches Caleb and his friends to sign up for football camp. Tessa also wants to join football camp, but isn't sure how her friends and parents will react. Tessa's mother is using her to promote her mayoral campaign, and her friends are depending on her to try out for cross-country. Her relationship with Caleb complicates when she feels he doesn't want her to play football. Caleb is afraid how his friends will treat Tessa because she plays football, and how he will be treated by dating her. Tessa doesn't want to have to choose between two sports she loves and faces discrimination because she's a girl.

I was pulled in from the introduction. It started the story off with a light, happy mood. We see Tessa's passion and dedication for running. We meet her love interest, Caleb, and her secret that she likes football but doesn't want her friends to know.

The Football Girl provided a unique perspective into doing something different. Tessa knew that most girls didn't play football and she could be shunned: but she didn't let stop her! She felt her life was mapped out for her, and she wanted to do something she enjoyed without having to worry about being accepted. She was treated and seen differently because she played football. Caleb felt really conflicted about Tessa playing football. He was happy for her, but he couldn't explain to himself why he didn't want her to play. The author approached this heavy topic with passion and characters who cared.

The two different POVs helped me understand how both of the characters would feel about a girl playing football. Tessa felt that if she could play, she could play! She is offended when Caleb hints that she shouldn't do it. Caleb is confused because he grew up with boys playing football, and it messed up the logical order of things to him. He was influenced by his friends, who agree and disagree about it. Readers will be intrigued about getting into both a girl and a boy's head in this situation.

I appreciated that the romantic relationship didn't take over the plot. Tessa and Caleb's romantic relationship strengthened the story, and it wasn't gushy. They supported each other, even if they had conflicting feelings about something. They both made mistakes in their relationship, but they cared enough about each other to make it up in a credible way.

Both Caleb and Tessa's parents had issues. Caleb's parents pressured his brother to join the family business. Tessa's mom was very self-absorbed. Tessa and Caleb didn't want to hurt their parents. They cared about them, but didn't feel like they were an important part of their parents' lives. The family issues didn't take over the plot, but supported it. I liked how they were handled realistically, and ended with hope that they could make their relationship work.

There is plenty of action and lots of football. It was very refreshing to read a sports book with a female protagonist. Both boys and girls will enjoy reading The Football Girl. Even though Tessa was a girl, on the field, she was just a player. I am glad how Tessa's success in football was portrayed realistically. It was great to see than even she could mess up, especially when the author wanted to prove that girls could play football.

The Football Girl will appeal to both boys and girls alike! It is a sweet yet subtle book. With only two hundred pages, and to the point, it is a great summer read!
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