Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reading on a Day Off

I finished reading Leverage, by Joshua C. Cohen last night.

My day was pretty fractured. I didn't have any big house projects, no big boxes to haul, the weeds in the walkway were kinda small, so I spent the day trying to write book reviews and blogging but just didn't have the attention span for it. I watched 5 different bird species sharing, sort of, the fountain; I swept, looked for David Wiesner books to get signed, re-read the notes for the Washington Book Award speeches I was giving later in the evening. I don't know why I just didn't settle down to read. It was my day off sans husband, usually a day where I either read straight through or get stuff done. Just couldn't settle.

So, I decided to have breakfast at 1 or so. Boredom eating. Boredom reading. Try something new, only have to read it long enough to eat breakfast. It's usually a good enough length of time to judge whether to continue with something.

I've been picking at Leverage for a week. It's been on the kitchen table that long and I've been reading a page or two here, a short chapter there, during breakfast or during commercials. A thick, white advance reading copy, with a photo of a young man's forearm, long, muscled and veined, clenched in a fist. The title, LEVERAGE, in both black and red, the word RAGE in red. Leverage was different from the other books I start at meals. It was so good, I could only read a little bit at a time. I knew that once I started it, I was going to have to finish it, and my mind set this week was such that I wasn't going to be able to really give it the time and thought it truly deserves.

I finished my eggs and toast (if you accidentally eat moldy rye bread, is there a chance of having a psychedelic experience?) and still sat at the table reading. The sun moved into my eyes and I finally had to get up and move. I was sore from the truly uncomfortable chairs. Had to keep moving. So I decided to go to my FAVORITE place to read: Seward Park. I love walking around Seward Park while reading.

I wasn't finished with the book by the time I did one circle around so I sat in the car, warm, still able to hear the ducks and geese, and kept reading. Oh. What a story. What amazing writing. As horrible as this story is, the writing is so exquisite you have to keep reading. It's impossible not to tumble into the next paragraph, the next chapter.

I eventually had to leave the park. I had awards to present, and I still had to shower and dress. It was difficult to not read at the red lights. I got home and did the whole "oh, I can read a few more pages" until the light started to go and I was going to be seriously late for this event.

The Awards were good. I love Jim Lynch, the poetry was fabulous, Michael Harmon was shy and nervous, my heart stayed in my chest, and I remembered to breathe while speaking. But on my way home, I kept thinking about Leverage and that I didn't have to get up early-I could read through late night and into early morning. I could read until the first planes left Boeing Field if I wanted to.

The review I would write for Leverage will never reveal how truly good this book is. Let me just say that it's between two boys, Danny, a gymnast, and Kurt, a football player. Kurt has serious, serious issues in his life. He's smart, loyal, has a stutter and is seriously good at what he does. He is also a ward of the state and has been abused, physically and emotionally, most of his life. He has finally, after some horrific things happen to him and his best friend, come to a safer place: a home where he's not beaten, a team that accepts him, mostly, a coach who seems to care for him. He is rare: sensitive, thoughtful, careful, wary.

Danny's lost his mom, his dad is seldom home, he's hoping to win a gymnastics scholarship to college, and his team of small but strong boys ends up on the wrong side of the football team when their coach insists that the gymnasts get to use the weight room.

The book is told in alternating chapters, Danny's and Kurt's, and we see how their friendship evolves and becomes something they both need in order to survive.

There's football and gymnastics, steroid use, friendship, smart girls, smart boys, clueless adults, horror. There's guilt, love, hope, heroism, and joy. It's not for the faint of heart. There is a graphic scene in the locker room where 3 really huge boys hold down and abuse the smallest of the gymnasts and it will stay with you for a long while. That said, it's an important book, I think, and I know it will be a difficult book for school librarians to stock. Come and buy one. It should get the recognition it deserves for peeling back the politics that run high school sports.

Leverage is for ages 14 and up and will be available in February, 2011. 17.99. Dutton.

P.S. One of my favorite lines in the book is when the girls arrive at a party with the team. They float down the steps, his eyes stick to cutoff jeans and bare tummies: "Curvy beauties...fill the room with a scent that makes me want to lick the air."

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