The Case of the Team Spirit

John Allison. Oni (Diamond, dist.), $19.99 paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-62010-084-4
Allison is a triple threat: he plots deftly, draws confidently, and writes dead-on adolescent dialogue. Set in a grammar school in a British working-class community, this first book in his Bad Machinery series—originally published as a webcomic—has three earnest boys vying against three sharp-tongued girls to solve mysteries. The framing story concerns a Russian owner of a U.K. football (soccer) team trying to bully an elderly homeowner to sell her house; as the title hints, supernatural elements surface, too. There’s plenty of cynical commentary about British consumer culture, and the students’ sardonic banter provides a constant obbligato. About her mother’s boyfriend’s Velvet Underground albums, Shauna yawns, “It’s nice that you gave some money to people just playing music for the first time.” Allison’s adults are sympathetically drawn, too—even the archvillain has a human side. A wry glossary “defines” British terms (“Nuffink: The way you say ‘nothing’ if you were dragged up rather than brought up”), but can’t begin to illuminate the arcane mysteries of the British football-industrial complex; readers are on their own there. Dark, fast-paced, and riotously funny entertainment. Ages 10–up. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/11/2013
Release date: 04/01/2013
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