Nico Medina’s world is eleven miles away from mine. During the day, it’s a place where doors are open—where homes are lived in, and neighbors love. But when the sun sets, it becomes a place where young boys are afraid, where eyes watch from idling cars that hide in the shadows and wicked smoke flows from pipes. West End is the kind of place that people survive. It buries them—one at a time, one way or another. And when Nico was a little boy, his mom always told him to run. I’m Reagan Prescott—coach’s daughter, sister to the prodigal son, daughter in the perfect family. Life on top. Lies. My world is the ugly one. Private school politics and one of the best high school football programs in the country can break even the toughest souls. Our darkness plays out in whispers and rumors, and money and status trump all. I would know—I’ve watched it kill my family slowly, strangling us for years. In our twisted world, a boy from West End is the only shining light. Quarterback. Hero. Heart. Good. I hated him before I needed him. I fell for him fast. I loved him when it was almost too late. When two ugly worlds collide, even the strongest fall. But my world…it hasn’t met the boy from West End.
The Hard CountFeatured
Nico and Reagan live on opposite sides of town. While Nico's home is on the "wrong side of the tracks," Reagan is the daughter of their private high school's football coach, where he leads the storied "Tradition" football team. The politics that make up the school are mind-boggling, based at least initially on the fact that they take in scholarship students like Nico who are smart and athletic, but then refuse to let them live up to their potential since they don't come from the "right" side of town. Nico's West End address has marked him as at-risk, and has caused him to be seen by many as nothing more than a charity case that the school has been kind enough to take in as a student.
Scott has a way with words that shed spectacular light on the racism that runs rampant even though no one will speak directly to it. The disapproval that stems from this racism - that causes students like Reagan to feel unable to speak out - is captured in truthful nature. Everyone knows how they feel when they are alone, but as soon as it comes time to speak out in front of the masses, many lose the nerve they thought they had. This causes hurt feelings and bitterness that they weren't as strong as they thought they could be. This was handled with care, as Reagan found her footing as the novel progressed, possibly strengthened by the debating tools Ginger Scott had her gaining in the English class scenes that were interspersed throughout the novel.
Even though her way with words can truly make one feel they are a part of the action - of the football games, of the relationships, of the laughter and tears that readers will certainly enjoy as they read - they sometimes felt a bit much. The first half of the novel took forever to get through, and even though the writing is good, and the story interesting, the details sometimes were too much. Even though this was true for the first half, the second half read much more quickly and was even more engaging.
If you are looking for a story that captures a spectrum of emotions, that struggles with issues that are prevalent in society to this day, that includes a love story as well as a story of family, hard times, acceptance, and finding the courage to stand tall, 'The Hard Count' will be that book for you.