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Review: Leverage (Joshua C. Cohen)

Title: Leverage
Author: Joshua C. Cohen
Genre: YA Sports Fiction
Pages: 425
Rating: 5 out of 5
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library
Summary (from the back of the book): There's an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on--and off--the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy--including the most innocent bystanders. When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalting prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast mitt hold the key to a school's salvation. Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

Review: Intense. Thought-provoking, and That is the word that describes this book. Here are some of the issues that Cohen deals with in this well-written, tense, and realistic book

  • First impressions--as with most of us, the characters in this story base their opinions of one another based on how they look. Kurt is HUGE, has awful facial scars and stutters. Everyone assumes he is stupid and scary. Kurt is neither of these two things.
  • Steroids--the affects of steroids (anger, impotence and more) are deftly highlighted in this story without being preachy
  • Win at all costs--while this is not always present in sports, all too often words such as "kill", "demolish", and "annihilate" are often used when talking about an opponent. At times, it gets out of hand and athletes will do things they know are wrong in order to win, to gain college admission, or to get an athletic scholarship
  • Peer pressure--wow. This is a big one in life and in books, but Cohen plays it out so well in Leverage. We have all succumbed to peer pressure, either to do something we know is wrong or to keep quiet when we know we should speak out. As an adult I really work hard to make sure that I say something or come to someone's defense, but as a teen that is probably one of the most difficult tasks. To be a witness and not to speak up because of fear is an awful thing and lies at the heart of this novel.
  • Friendship--a true friend, someone who likes you for who you are, despite your failings, is rare. Danny and Kurt find such a friendship and I loved the way it built slowly but surely, each one learning to trust the other a little bit at a time.
On the author's website he states that he began Leverage after reading a news account of a horrific attack by a group of high school seniors on their fellow underclassmen teammates. When the victims reluctantly came forward they were ostracized by the surrounding community for sullying the reputation of the school and causing the cancellation of the football season. Leverage is brutal, honest, and leaves nothing behind.

Geography Connection

(photo credit for the image of the co-author, Joshua C. Cohen)

Click to see my updated Google Map. I am not really sure where this book takes place, but both the author and Danny support the Minnesota Vikings so I am going to go with Minnesota. I have two good friends from college who lived in St. Paul so I've been there once. I remember their amazing Science and Technology Museum. And, how cool is it that the author was a gymnast (I mean, really, check out his author photo!)

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