Teen-aged sports these days must be wicked difficult. To participate and successfully steer clear of all of the awful things lurking out there in America simply confronts the integrity of each player head on. The fall of adult athletes who used to be heroes to young people in this country is remarkable and frightening; Alex Rodriguez (accused at this date) and Lance Armstrong (confirmed and still returning his earnings from what I know) are only the beginning of a rapidly growing list. Leverage names some of those challenges-- steroids and bullying absolutely a part of this book, offering a voice to experiences that are often unnamed in the media except in teen literature.
Danny is a high-school gymnast who appears gifted enough to possibly have a chance at a college scholarship. Kurt, a similarly gifted athlete, becomes a football player at the same school after switching schools mid-year by way of a new foster mother. The way these boy's lives intersect shines light on the frequently-quiet, outside-of-cliques' friendship that occurred when I was in school, and I celebrate still occurs nowadays. On Kurt's first day of football, he is offered money (poor boy from poverty, according to the clueless coach's view) and steroids (again said clueless coach demonstrates his win-at-all-costs ethics). Kurt accepts, knowing that he is new to the school and not knowing rules or consequences of either. Over time, Kurt asks Danny to teach him how to do a back handspring, something giant lumbering Kurt indeed learns. Eventually Kurt and another friend ask Danny to stand with him as they confront the awful actions from three leaders on the football team.
This book kept me holding tightly to it. I loved the story, appreciated the rhythm and timing of the text, and really connected with the sports theme central to the novel. With superb cover art, Leverage is a keeper, and I look forward to seeing where Cohen leads next in his writing.