by Coy, John

In the high stakes world of high school football, Miles Manning discovers that the hits he takes on the field don't compare to the tribulations he faces in growing up. Reprint.

John Coy is an award-winning author, who worked as a dishwasher, mattress maker, and tour guide before taking up writing. He's active in sports and is a member of the NBA Reading All-Star Team as part of the Read to Achieve program. John has traveled to all fifty states as well as to many countries internationally.

His work includes Strong to the Hoop, an American Library Association Notable Book, Night Driving, a Marion Vannett Ridgway Memorial Award winner and a Horn Book Fanfare title, Two Old Potatoes and Me, a Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, a Nickelodeon Jr.¹s Best Books of the Year, and a featured book on PBS Reading Rainbow, and Vroomaloom Zoom, a book of excellence on the Children¹s Literature Choice List. His newest picture book Around the World is about international basketball.

John¹s latest title is Crackback, a young adult novel that reveals the high stakes world of high school football as a young player finds himself in a difficult situation. John's experience as a defensive back on his high school football team brings an authentic voice to which readers will be able to relate. ?As a boy I loved playing football in the back yard and later in organized games," says John. ?Football was the one place where smashing into people was not only okay, it was rewarded."

The idea for the novel came when he wrote Strong to the Hoop. ?My editor for Strong to the Hoop said that the language and action convinced her that I had a novel in me and that she would like to see it when I wrote it," John states. ?When I was ready to write it, the topic that grabbed me was high school football."

John also wanted to convey his belief that it is impossible to overestimate the degree of identification some teenagers have with sports. ?I was such a teenager, and my choices for reading such books were much more limited than the options available today."

John Coy writes and plays sports in Minnesota and wherever else he can join a game.

/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 8-11. Sophomore football star Miles is excited about his strong team's chances in the new season. Then his favorite coach resigns, and Miles chafes under the new coach, who favors phrases such as "This isn't a democracy. This is a dictatorship, and I'm the Dick." Miles feels alienated from his teammates at school, who have turned to steroids, and also at home, with his angry father. In his first novel, the author of several picture books, including Strong to the Hoop (1998), writes a moving, nuanced portrait of a teen struggling with adults who demand, but don't always deserve, respect. A subplot involving a school assignment about family roots and the Middle Passage feels somewhat patched on, but Coy connects the story's diverse elements-family secrets, his father's rage and homophobia, a burgeoning romance, football, and shifting friendships-in a loose jumble that, like Miles' strong first-person voice, is sharply authentic, open-ended, and filled with small details that signify larger truths. For another powerful look at the emotional lives of male teen athletes, suggest A. M. Jenkins' Damage (2001). ((Reviewed September 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Miles is excited about his junior-year football season. He knows the sport, loves playing defense and even though his father can be overbearing, he's taught Miles basic skills and how to play smart and to respect the coach. Zach, who has been Miles's best friend and teammate, is transforming himself, now. He's not just bulking up, but passing out uppers and advocating shooting up steroids as something all players do. When the regular coach steps aside, belligerent inexperienced Coach Stahl takes over and Miles has to consider carefully how important is the sport to him and how much he wants to risk. Coy obviously knows the gridiron and uses crackback, a football term meaning a block coming from the outside and behind, to symbolize all the ways sudden changes or surprises in life can throw you for a loop. Coy makes fun of the stupid clichés that surround the sport while maintaining a strong love of the game, managing to integrate girlfriends, serious social history and family dynamics seamlessly. Most of the recent quality sports fiction has focused on basketball or wrestling, which makes this extra welcome. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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