Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Football is king.  At least, at Oregrove High School it is.  Coach has his best players on the field.  Scott, Tom, and Mike are the reigning trinity for the Knights.  Along with their coach, they are going to make sure they win the state title this year.  But coach has been recruiting, and it’s where he finds a diamond in the rough….Kurt.

Kurt, a product of foster homes is big, strong, and fast.  And he made a vow – he will never again be a victim.  He remembers what Crud Bucket did to him and Lamar, but it’s what happened to Lamar that has made Kurt who he is today.  

Walking onto the team, Kurt Brodsky tries to hide himself, but the scars on his face and his stuttering don’t help.  But with Coach on his side, the three kings welcome him with open arms.  Another warrior on the battlefield to help defend against the enemies, and target the weak….

Danny wants so badly to show his father that his sport isn’t just a hobby.  He works hard beside Bruce, Ronnie and the other gymnasts to become the best he can on the mats, and the high bar.  His suicide jump isn’t perfected yet, but when it is, he knows it’ll garner him some attention.  

He also knows that the gym, especially the weight room, should be avoided when the football players take over.  He’s not only seen how they bully the other, smaller students, but himself as well and will do anything to avoid a run-in.  And now there’s another one. 

But a confrontation does occur.  And what starts out as a small incident quickly becomes violent over time.  Danny witnesses what Scott, Mike and Tom do and so does Kurt, and it’s that incident that lays the foundation of right against wrong, right over might, and victimization vs. freedom.  

Cohen writes his first YA novel that’s powerful.  Gritty, realistic, intense… the reader will step into the halls of Oregrove and walk unseen with both Kurt and Danny as they struggle with themselves and those that surround them.  Cohen doesn’t sugarcoat in this book.  In your face…all of this describes how seniors, especially those that are privileged living in a small town, will act, think and speak like.  Written in alternate voices between Danny and Kurt, readers will experience the triumph and the tragedy Cohen’s written so well within this novel while dealing with issues like bullying, suicide, drug use, friendship, and redemption, what others expect from you and what you expect from yourself.  Excellent debut novel!

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