Harrison’s mother is not able to take care of him, and he ends up being moved from foster family to foster family. The Constables are on a farm and particularly abusive. Harrison doesn’t mind working, but he does mind the beatings. When the father is accidentally killed, Harrison ends up with the daughter of his social worker, who is married to a football coach. They are very kind, and the idea of finally being able to play football, a sport he loves to watch, helps Harrison control his anger. Unfortunately, some of the other football players don’t appreciate him doing so well as a newcomer, especially when the cute and nice Becky also has her eye on him, and they make his life more difficult. Harrison is able to work through these issues and adjust to life with Coach and his wife, and has great promise as a football player, but when he is sidelined by a knee injury, the unthinkable is discovered—he has a cancerous tumor on his knee, and his leg has to be amputated. Luckily, Coach has a friend who lost a leg in the war, and he moves in to help Harrison with his therapy. Bauer is hard on Harrison, but it’s better than letting wallow in self-pity. While undergoing chemotherapy, Harrison meets Marty, who is worse off than he is, and is motivated by his supportive community to get better and train to once again be a football player. The narrative includes descriptions of real life people who triumphed over similar obstacles.
Green writes a riveting sports book, always. Harrison is an understandable character, and the sports details are great. If you have a middle school or even high school library (I was surprised to find that Harrison was supposed to be an 8th grader), just go by two copies right now, because it will never be on the shelf.