A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
When Josh's father, a minor-league baseball player, is cut from his team, he gets a job with an under-14 championship traveling team, and pushes Josh into joining. Despite grueling practices and some hazing, Josh is beginning to fit in. But then he is offered steroids by one of the other kids, steroids that the other players use, and that presumably come from the intense and somewhat scary coach -- who is now his father's employer.
Is it any good?
Author Tim Green is not yet a great writer, but he is a terrific storyteller. And when you have a plot this compelling it almost doesn't matter that the prose sometimes sounds like the stuff of a freshman composition class ("like biting into a ruby red apple only to find a brown worm crawling through the crisp, white fruit"). Yikes! But a few pages in and young readers won't care -- they'll be hooked by the suspenseful, ripped-from-the-headlines story, doled out in teeny chapters with artificial mini-cliffhangers at the end of each.
They also won't care that the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes (the bully, the obsessed coach, the modest boy-wonder and his sidekick, the tough teen girl reporter/detective with a heart of gold, etc.) -- because they're good stereotypes. They're satisfying. Josh is a major talent who also works harder than anyone else, and the story of his triumphs is like a realistic wish-fulfillment fantasy, a down-to-earth superhero story.
From the Book:
When he saw his home, a narrow, red two-story place with a steep roof and a sagging front porch, he breathed deep, and his heart began to slow. The previous owner had three pit bulls, and so a chain-link fence surrounded the house and its tiny front and back lawns, separating them from the close-packed neighbors on either side. The driveway ran tight to the house, and like the single, detached garage, it was just outside the fence. Josh lifted the latch, but as he pulled open the front gate, a hand appeared from nowhere, slamming it shut. The latch clanked home, and the hand spun Josh around. "What you running from?" asked Bart Wilson, the tenth-grade smoker.
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