A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Hard work and respect pay off for Marcus as he tries to make a place for himself on the local football team. Even though Troy has a lot of anger toward Marcus, it comes from the depth of his feelings about his family issues and he eventually overcomes it. Charlie's whole family has to come to terms with his secret and figure out the best way to deal with it.
Positive Role Models
Marcus is a determined, well-meaning kid who looks up to Charlie and
tries to help him by covering for him and hanging out with him.
Charlie's son, Troy, is angry, but he comes to
realize that Marcus is a good friend to his dad. It is clear that Troy's anger comes from the sorrow over his dad's secret and the fear of what the secret means for his family. Alyssa is the flirtatious head cheerleader with a passion for football and a head for the game. All of the adults in the story are supportive and kind. Charlie is sweet, but his secret gets him and Marcus into trouble.
Violence & Scariness
Troy punches and shoves Marcus, but the fight is broken up. Troy shouts at Alyssa and Marcus and calls Marcus a "dead man." A shocking but not graphic death of a main character.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Phrases such as "nice buns," "jump his bones," and "shaking your butt," are used. Alyssa jokes about managing Marcus' "equipment." Alyssa enters the locker room where the football players are changing and Marcus is fresh from the shower in only a towel. A scene where Alyssa and Marcus go into a closet together at a party in order to make out.
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Some use of words like "pissed," "damn," and "stupid."
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Products & Purchases
Troy drives a Vespa scooter, which is mentioned frequently.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main characters go to a party where teens are doing "something stupid, if not illegal." Marcus is offered a beer by a teammate, which he doesn't like, but he takes it and pretends to like it because it is the first symbolic gesture of friendship between him and the teammate.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a complex story involving family secrets and the lengths that some families will go to in order to protect them. There is one party where teens drink beer and there are a couple of minor fights, but overall this is a mild book with a good message. There is some sexual innuendo, with a couple of brief kissing scenes. A main character dies unexpectedly but not graphically.
Is It Any Good?
POP goes beyond being a good read for sports fans. Yes, there's a lot of football action -- the team deals with their conflicts while trying to remain undefeated for a second straight season -- but the action is nothing compared to the page-turning drama of Charlie and his secret.
Charlie and Marcus share a special, if confusing, bond from the first time they meet at the local park. Thinking of his absent father, "Comrade Stalin," Marcus is a little confused by Charlie's playfulness and seeming lack of responsibility. The confusion gives way to amazement when he sees firsthand the awesome strength and agility that is more common in a man half Charlie's age. Charlie is thrilled to play football (and maybe pull a few pranks on the town curmudgeon) with "Mac," and it quickly becomes apparent that they are more important to each other than they realized.
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.