Monday, March 28, 2011

Leverage, by Joshua C. Cohen

Joshua C. Cohen

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date:
February 17, 2011
Young Adult
Hardcover, 426
4/5 (Avg 4/5)
The football field is a battlefield.

There’s an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on—and off—the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy—including the most innocent bystanders.

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school’s salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.

To describe this book in a word: intense.

When I started this book I expected some mild bullying and some vague descriptions of a few small pranks played that could maybe include some black eyes, but more of an emphasis on the steroids and kids trying to figure out how to stop them. Boy, was I wrong! What I thought of violent school pranks was nothing like what was described in this book. I've never been too squeamish when it came to books, but reading what some of these kids went through really had me on edge. The tragic result of one prank literally had me in tears, the others having me squirm uncomfortably in my chair.

The story is told in alternating perspectives, a star football player with a horrible past and a talented gymnast with a snarky attitude. Kurt, the football player, really stole my heart from the very beginning. He was a strong character with a bad start in life, but that bad start made him into a good character with more redeeming qualities than most would have coming from the same upbringing. Danny, the gymnast, started out as a fun-loving character with a quirky mouth and not a care in the world except for his gymnastics. As the story unfolds, both of these characters go through exponential changes both good and bad. Poor Danny took the worst of it, as you read the book you literally watch his carefree attitude all but vanish. Though they both go through horrific events, I consider both Kurt and Danny heroes for what they endured and the chances they took to make things right.

A character that I wish would have had more appearances in the book was Tina. She just kind of showed up every now and then, but her actions in the book proved she was one of the good guys. I loved how she helped out when she could, never backing off when things got tough. The three main football players in this book were horrific. There was nothing redeeming about any of them and I found myself screaming at them through most of the book - which I guess means that the author did a great job at making good bad guys.

The pranks and said "bad guy" football players were both a little hard for me to swallow in the sense that they both seemed a little over the top. However, the writing and emotion was built up so well in this book that I got over that fairly quickly. Some scenes were so graphic that I sometimes had to take a break for a calming breath before I could read on. Cohen leaves nothing to the imagination.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It's real and it's raw, heartbreaking and intense - yet at the end, it's uplifting and triumphant. Leverage will open up your eyes to things that you may have never seen before... and you might never want to see again. It won't be a story for everyone, though I think everyone should give it a chance. It's a great book, though probably not for the faint at heart. Even though it's labeled as Young Adult, I'd definitely recommend it to a more mature YA audience as it contains scenes of violence and rape, as well as strong language.

Find Joshua C. Cohen Online
Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Purchase Leverage
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

I'm hosting a giveaway for a signed copy of Leverage that's open from now until Friday, April 8, 2011. Be sure to comment on my character interview with Bruce to be entered. To be directed to the post, click here!


Jessi E. said...

I was wow-ed by the intensity of this book. Other books haven't seemed as sharp in comparison since then. *withdrawals*

Unknown said...

Thanks for a fantastic review. I've heard mixed reviews about this, but now I really want to read it.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Between you and Missie... I think I need to read this book. Yep, you both have ganged up on me and are convincing me I need this book. :)

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