Author: Jasper Sanchez
Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Sports Fiction/ Realistic Fiction
Tags: sports, hockey, strong female lead, gender issues, discrimination
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ /5
Release Date: 06/01/2021
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book for free through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. See the end of the review for teacher-specific info.
Sometimes, when you finish a book, you want to cradle it against your chest because of all the warm, fuzzy feelings it gave you or because it impacted you in some way. This was one of those books.
I’ll start by saying that I was probably the perfect demographic for this particular book. I love YA, I -really- love The West Wing, I love diverse and authentic representations of queer teens, and like the main character I was obsessed with politics in high school. I went into this book with high hopes, and it knocked them out of the park.
I loved Mark as a main character, and I felt deeply for him as he struggled with his dad’s refusal to accept him. I appreciated the cast of characters that made up French club, and I thought that every character in this book was written in a way that was authentic and unique. I really enjoyed the fact that Mark’s ultimate lesson forced him to confront the sort of man (and politician) he wanted to become as he began to view his own father’s career through a more critical lens. The references to different political and philosophical theories was great, and Mark’s campaign for class president was, simply put, fun to read. Basically, there’s a lot to love here.
And, for all my fellow West Wing fans out there- there is a cathedral scene with the main character that serves as a pretty awesome callback to the episode “Two Cathedrals.” I was almost tempted to put on “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits just to complete the effect. If you, like me, have binged the show so many times you can quote most episodes line-for-line, you will definitely enjoy this book even if your YA days are behind you.
I’m almost tempted to ignore the rest of my TBR pile and read it again. Look for this book in June 2021!
Now for the teacher bit: This book does make some passing references to characters being sexually active, though nothing occurs onscreen and there are no “fade to black” moments. There are quite a few f-bombs throughout, though I feel it’s not egregious. It would be important for students to be aware that this book deals with a parent who is not accepting of their LGBTQ+ child’s identity, as this may be triggering to students who face similar struggles. This is definitely a high-school YA book; I will purchase a copy for my 8th-grade classroom library, but I think this one might be a little too advanced and mature to use for book clubs with that age, unless you’re working with gifted kids who are also a little more emotionally mature. There are lots of great connections to real-life politics as well, allowing options for some research projects on the part of students.