28 June 2011

Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Danny is a gymnast, and (unfortunately) that includes having the body of a gymnast: strong but small.  Kyle is a football player, with the body of one, but not all that much else on the surface.  The football team and the gymnasts don't exactly get along, and when the gymnastics coach challenges the team for the shared use of the school gym, emotions run high and tensions run strong.  Danny and Kyle both wish that they could just be invisible because attention seems to always lead to pain, but neither of them can ignore the violence they witness that leads to another boy's suicide.  Yet neither one is sure that he has the strength to stand up and speak either.

This is a painful story to experience, at any age, and, yes, that's a warning.  There are many issues that are jumbled into this expansive novel -- among those issues are steroid abuse, unfortunate foster care situations, learning disabilities, child physical and sexual abuse, drinking, drugs, and random sex.  But the scene in the book that will stand out the most vividly involves three football players and one helpless freshman boy trapped in a locker room.  The author does not hold back and the reader is not shielded from the trauma and the horror any more than Danny is.  And yet as painful as the book might be to read, it is just as powerful to absorb.  It's a story that should be told again and again until it no longer exists.  The reader mourns the tragedy of the one and admires and celebrates the resulting strength that emerges from within the other.

Recommended primarily to adults and very mature teen readers.  This isn't a fun read, nor an easy one.  But it remains incredible.

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

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