A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Leverage presents a detailed look at what it takes to excel at either football or gymnastics. The scenes on the field and in the gym are especially realistic and well described.
Leverage emphasizes the importance of loyalty and bravery and of doing the right thing in difficult circumstances. Both Danny and Kurt have to learn to trust each other and stand together when it seems as if the entire community opposes them. By asking for help, they discover support in unexpected places.
Positive Role Models
Both Danny and Kurt demonstrate that outward appearances can be deceptive. Small and less developed than his peers, Danny has a core of emotional strength that eventually allows him to stand up for himself and others. With his facial scar and debilitating stutter, Kurt might seem like a menacing dumb jock, but inside he is vulnerable and empathetic.
Violence & Scariness
Leverage contains a large amount of physical and emotional violence. Kurt is haunted by the memories of the abuse he withstood as a young child, which eventually led to the death by suffocation of his one friend. At Oregrove High, Danny and his teammates are tormented by members of the football squad. In the most disturbing episode (spoiler alert), a male first-year gymnast is forcibly sodomized and later commits suicide. As the plot progresses, there are beatings, threats with loaded guns, and intentional injuries on the playing field.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The inner circle of football players in Leverage treats girls, especially the cheerleaders, purely as sex objects. In one party scene, it is implied that Kurt hooks up with one young woman, who is never mentioned again. The only female character with much depth is Tina, the tough-but-good-hearted audio-visual expert who seems to have the beginnings of a crush on Kurt.
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The language in Leverage is very strong and uncompromising, and its list of profanities is too long to enumerate. It includes "a--hole," "s--t," "p---y," and nearly every variation of "f--k," plus a variety of homophobic epithets like "faggot" and "pansy."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Members of the football squad, including one of the protagonists, use illegal steroids and drink alcohol. Some of the gymnasts smoke marijuana and drink. This behavior is mostly talked about, but there a few scenes where it is depicted directly.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Leverage doesn't pull many punches in its depiction of high school sports culture run amok. It features bullying, steroid use, teen drinking and pot use, a large amount of profanity, and a good deal of emotional and physical violence, including beatings, threats with loaded guns, and intentional injuries on the playing field. A male student is sexually assaulted, and there is a suicide.
Is It Any Good?
LEVERAGE is a thoughtful, suspenseful, and intense story of athletic rivalry and bullying run amok. The author, Joshua C. Cohen, does a fine job of presenting the story from two different perspectives and describing the physical realities of high-pressure football and gymnastics. The antagonists, however, are a little obvious in their villainy, and as the narrative speeds toward its climax, some readers will be able to guess the ending a few beats too early.
Leverage made the 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults list, compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.