David Klass, Author . FSG/Foster $18 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-39963-4

Klass (You Don't Know Me) throws a lot at his protagonist, Joe, a suburban New Jersey high school senior who is captain of his school's losing soccer team, the Braves. While Joe is sympathetic, the unclear trajectory of the narrative and predictable outcomes will likely discourage readers. "The Phenom," a Brazilian soccer player, transfers in, becomes the star of Joe's team and wins over Kris, Joe's longtime crush, and Joe is understandably upset. After the Phenom injures a football player in a fight, tensions spark between the "hard [i.e., muscular] guys," football players mostly bused in from Bankside, and the soccer team (and eventually between Bankside and local kids), but Joe plays by teen rules, keeping silent to authorities even after bullies beat up his best friend, Ed the Mouse. Heightened security at school and the next attack on the Mouse, compounded by a falling out with Kris, add to Joe's mounting stress. In the end, he must decide whether to fight hard guy Slade, a decision presented as pivotal to shaping his future. The story unfolds very slowly, and the Phenom's role in the book is surprisingly marginal; it's easy to lose track of him occasionally amid Joe's other crises. Some of the plotting, like Joe's unlikely interview for an educational boating expedition, steers this story off course, and even the Phenom's dark secret seems lackluster. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/14/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Children's
Prebound-Glued - 355 pages - 978-0-7569-2805-6
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-30690-4
Paperback - 355 pages - 978-0-06-053171-3
Prebound-Sewn - 368 pages - 978-1-4176-2036-4
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4668-1042-6
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