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Book Reviews, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Lovelace Award Nominee, Middle Grade Readers

FOOTBALL GENIUS by Tim Green…a LOVELACE nominee

I thoroughly enjoyed Football Genius.  It took a few chapters to establish the pace and then it really took off.  It is an excellent independent read choice for someone who is interested in (or crazy about) football.

Troy White is a sixth grade boy who plays second string quarterback on his football team. The coach’s son is the starting quarterback even though Troy has greater talent.   Troy has an amazing ability to read the patterns in a football game and know which plays will happen next.  This talent comes to the forefront when his mother is hired by the PR department for the Atlanta Falcons NFL team.

Troy’s attempts to be heard by the coaches, his mom, and one middle linebacker in particular are filled with humor, compassion and excitement.  Even when Troy finally succeeds in getting one of the players to listen to him, he must still break through his mother’s stubornness, a malicious coach’s motives and the unreachable ear of the team’s owner.

Troy gets his chance to be special, to fulfill the part of his destiny that is right now.  Troy’s story strikes a chord with anyone who has ever had a dream for his future, or has searched for the essence of what makes him different and special within this big world.

I think, however, the book may have limited appeal to readers who are not interested in football or do not really understand how the game is played.  (For example:  I have read all the Harry Potter books, but find Quidditch, as a sport, boring and would often skim the pages and pages describing the game itself.) I am a HUGE football fan and was enthralled with the descriptions of plays on the field.  I could see the games playing in my head while I was reading about them.  Green also uses the names of several actual NFL players, but since the book was written in 2007, they are outdated now.  As a MN Vikings fan I chuckled at the descriptions of Randy Moss’s behavior as an Oakland Raider.  Also, Michael Vick is quarterbacking the Falcons (pre-dog fighting scandal).  If you don’t know who Brian Urlacher, Tiki Barber and Drew Bledsoe are then the name dropping is probably going to bore you.  If you DO know your football players from the early 2000’s, then it’s kind of a kick to read about them in passing during the story.

Tim Green was a defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons from 1986-1993.  His expertise in the arena of professional football is clearly evident in the details of the games and the structure of a pro football team.  It is not simply his football expertise that is showcased in this novel.  His ability to tell Troy’s story in an exciting and meaningful way.

This is a fun, easy, uplifting read that rises to an even higher level if you are a football fan, like me.

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