Yes, those books. Those poor books. For them we have created a category, an entire week, belonging just to them. Because we really did have such high hopes for them. And then they let us down.
****MATURE CONTENT WARNING****
Title: Playing with the Boys
Author: Liz Tigelaar
Genre: sports, romance
My Rating: *
Official Rating: Teen Fiction
Age Group: 18+ (preferably girls only)
Summary: Lucy is one letter short of "lucky" and when she doesn't make the varsity soccer team at her new school, that just proves that she's always been right about her name. So she does the next best thing. She tries out for the football team. Which is, of course, a guys football team. Somehow, she manages to get onto a team where the players are not happy to have her. The coach feels the same way, but she can kick so well that he would look like a fool to refuse her a place on the team. Not to mention he wants to have a winning team.
But Lucy is a girl. On a guys football team. That alone should set up enough conflict for a whole series of books.
What can I say? I like my soccer, and I like my football. Putting the two into the same novel? Could it get any better? Yes, actually, it could. Introducing Benji Mason, the funny and sweet and kind punter who falls for Lucy. Plus, the idea of a girl on a guys' team is actually kind of interesting, at least assuming it is treated in an appropriate manner.
Well. That makes a good set up for any book, doesn't it?
Word of Warning/The Disappointment
Goodness, this will be a long list. Please be warned that this list does contain some very inappropriate references simply because they were in the book and I want the reader to know what he/she is getting into. Where do I start? At the beginning of the book, I guess. Here it goes!
- Please note that Lucy is a fifteen year old girl.
- This is the story of a teen girl who decides that enough is enough. She is going to do what she wants, even if her father says she can't. And in the end? Well, the stuff he does find out about (football), he is ok with. And proud of her for. And that right there is a huge problem.
- Partying against a parent's direct order not to party.
- Lucy claims to have made out two and a half times. Making out is mentioned one other time.
- Words: h***, sexy (on the bottom of someone's pants), crap, a**, a**-hole, b*tch (used as an insult, also as a term of endearment for "friends"), and God's name used in vain at least twice.
- Alcohol. It is mentioned, then later in the book teens drink it. They talk about stealing it from unsuspecting parents and do not seem to regret their choice. One girl has a bit too much and ends up throwing up in the bathroom.
- Cigarettes are mentioned (but not used). The first time curfew is mentioned it is pointed out that it has not been broken, but it is broken several times in the book. Crystal meth is mentioned as an addiction but no one has it, illegitimate children are also mentioned as something that is nonexistent for a particular person.
- Disrespect for grandparents (they are referred to as crazy) and a father. In a confusing twist, Lucy genuinely seems to love her father at the same time as she is rude to him, lying to him, and breaking all the rules he sets for her (reasonable rules, one might add. they are completely reasonable and not uncommon).
- A dead mother is mentioned. The cause of her death is assumed to be sickness. This death throws a bit of confusion into the relationship between Lucy and her father as they struggle to live without the mother, love each other, and deal with frustrations.
- Girl is allowed to decorate her bedroom. Which is fine, except this decorating is referred to as graffiti.
- Girls in tank-tops with built-in bras (yes, that's actually mentioned). A-cups are mentioned, along with D-cups, the latter in relation to another girl, the gossipers joking that "guys throw quarters at her cleavage." Lucy is disappointed with the size of her own breasts but eventually is not disturbed. Lucy's jersey is sabotaged, two giant holes cut in the front for her breasts as a joke. Determined to show the football team that she is not a wimp, Lucy goes out onto the field wearing it, her sports bra showing. She is given a new jersey and changes right there in the open since, she reasons, they've already seen her sports bra.
- Other sexual references: a teacher tells students to hold their (hockey) sticks tightly. The girls laugh and the narrator comments on high schoolers always interpreting things as sexual. Girls at soccer are sent to grab the balls, one says the other loves to do just that, they all giggle. Further giggles result in the "touches" on the ball they are to do next. While warming up for football practice, Lucy is told that the kickers will have to hold their own balls for the time being because the other player is also the center. Lucy twists the meaning here and giggles. Lucy confesses to getting a "B" in sex ed, something that Benji finds rather funny.
- A girl uses what she calls the "period excuse" to explain her ten minute absence from a football game. She's not ashamed of doing so, makes the coach squirm a bit, and goes on with life. When referencing it she says she had a feminine difficulty or something along those lines.
- Cute boys are everywhere.
- A girl is referred to as "emo" (a term not explained) and she seems to hate Lucy, growling at her at one point.
- A girl decides a certain cute boy should be cloned if he has not been already.
- Two guys in a TV show are predicted to be making out by the end of the season.
- Some girls are forbidden by their parents from watching MTV. Their friends are horrified and deem this "globally unfair."
- Jocks, geeks, etc are present and referred to as such (at times).
- Football players are taped to a goal post. They also confess to all sorts of joking around and hazing in the locker room, including urinating in shampoo bottles when others are not looking. It's deemed innocent and just a bit of guy fun by the football players, except Lucy, who is horrified.
- Ryan is the typical popular quarterback who is blind to one girl who has a crush on him, notices another (and leads her on), but actually is dating a third during the entire thing.
- Roughness on the football field and off, including injuries like broken ankles.
- Rudeness all around and toward friends all the time.
- Lies, cheating, and cruelty are all over the book.
- Two kisses (one apparently passionate, one not so much but portrayed as better).
- Teens win. Adults look stupid and realize that they were wrong all along in everything.
Could this have been more disappointing? I doubt it. However, as the book continued, the problems became fewer and farther between. Still, I was a bit sad. Does this author really think sex and sports are the only things that get high schoolers reading? That these two topics are the only ones people of that age range talk about?
Poor author. Such a sad, devastating, hopeless outlook on the world.
Well, was the story at least original? If it was, that's at least one star for the rating, right? Well it wasn't, unfortunately. Not at all. Let's see...we've got the new girl, the cute quarterback who turns out to be a jerk, and the other guy who clearly has fallen for the new girl but is sweet and just waits around for her to realize it, then eventually gets the girl. Now don't forget the mean girls, the nice ones, and the completely oblivious parents who confess that they were wrong after all.
Is anything missing? Oh, right. A girl on a guys' team who succeeds and ends up being respected by all the guys. Well, there it is. I think that covers every cliché in the writer's toolbox when it comes to stories like this.
It's funny, really. When authors write these clichés, they usually give the impression that it is not cliché, and that's why we should be excited. Er, right. After reading so many books, I'm afraid I'm not going to fall for that.
Why the one star? It had such great potential! And it was a fun story idea. I mean, it had soccer action, football action, football terminology, and a brave girl who decided to play on a guys' team.
Unfortunately, that girl was self-centered and had a father she could manipulate with just a bit of effort.
What more is there to say? It was sad. I had hoped for something better. It had such potential.
Potential which was trampled underfoot by the destructive cleats of teenagers who had room in their minds for only two things. I'm sorry, potential. It appears that once again you have been defeated.