From former football star and bestselling author John Ed Bradley comes a searing look at love, life, and football in the face of racial adversity. “Heartbreaking,” says Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak. Growing up in Louisiana in the late 1960s, Tater Henry has experienced a lot of prejudice. His town is slow to desegregate and slower still to leave behind deep-seated prejudice. Despite the town’s sensibilities, Rodney Boulett and his twin sister Angie befriend Tater, and as their friendship grows stronger, Tater and Rodney become an unstoppable force on the football field. That is, until Rodney sees Tater and Angie growing closer, too, and Rodney’s world is turned upside down. Teammates, best friends—Rodney’s world is threatened by a hate he did not know was inside of him. As the town learns to accept notions like a black quarterback, some changes may be too difficult to accept.
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Rodney plays just about every sport growing up in the south in the 1960s. He repeatedly comes across Tater Henry, a boy who tries to play baseball in the white park in 1965 and is chased off. The two are friendly enough, and when the black school is closed and all of the students sent to Rodney's high school, he's glad to finally be able to be on a team with Tater. Things don't go smoothly, even as the 1970s approach, and black players are given less prominent spots on the team, even though the coach isn't wild about the idea. Eventually, Tater becomes a quarterback and is even being considered by LSU. Rodney is trying to overcome the prejudice exhibited by his father, but it's hard even for him when Tater and Rodney's twin sister, Angie, are romantically linked.
Since most of the Civil Rights books I've come across are from the point of view of white girls, this was refreshing. The nuances of the prejudice are fantastic. Rodney feels he shouldn't care about Angie and Tater, since Tater is his best friend, but he is still bothered by the racial issue. Rodney's mother protects Tater on a couple of occasions, and views him as another young boy who needs protection, but realizes that he can't really hang out at the house when Rodney's father is there. But even Rodney's father is trying to change, even though he's not entirely sure it's the right thing to do. The football details are good. Highly readable book. More adult sports writers need to turn their hand to middle grade books.