New girl Lucy is desperate for friends. She tries out for Beachwood High soccer, but despite her amazingly accurate kick, fails to make the team. When the Coach points out that varsity football is looking for a new kicker, Lucy is skeptical. Football? Isn't that a boys' game?Review - Lucy's moved to California so her father can start afresh after her mother's death. In befriending two girls (previously seen in PrettyTOUGH), Lucy makes it her goal to make the soccer team alongside them. She fails. Instead she is coaxed into using her strong and very accurate kick to tryout for the boy's varsity football team as their kicker.
But on the gridiron Lucy discovers that she feels strong—in control for the first time since her mother died. She loves football. She actually wants to play! (She also wants to hang out with super-cute quarterback Ryan Conner. But that's just icing on the cake.)
Too bad no one else wants her on the team. Not the boys' coach, not her teammates, and especially not her overprotective dad. Will Lucy cave in to the pressure? Or will she prove she's pretty tough after all? Goodreads
The opening chapter was difficult in that a lot of it was exceedingly simple. It was exposition heavy so it tended to feel clunky. However the deeper you find yourself in this book, the more there is to it. The difficulty in making real friends is tackled on many fronts in Playing with the Boys - whether the gender gap, sexism, lying or giving another the benefit of the doubt. I find it of particular interest that the gender issue is tackle front on with the coach's treatment of Lucy, the team's interactions with her and the over protectiveness of her father. It all assists in creating a layered depiction of a girl joining a guy's team and the problems that come with that.
The quarterback is an interesting character. He's a decent guy, a genuinely supportive dude, with horrible taste in girls. It's a nice shading on a typically cliched character.
The father/daughter relationship is played for good effect. His reaction to her being on the team is exceedingly real. He's fearful of her getting hurt but it also ties into his greater fears for Lucy, His need to keep her safe is so strong that it impinges on her growing independence. It is a strong element of the story and rings true.
Lucy doesn't know anything about football before she joins the team, neither do I. It was a great method of integrating plays and actions sequences without being heavy handed with the explanations,.
The strongest message of this book is the question - do you become someone lesser for someone you like? It is an issue that Lucy has to deal with and there is no easy answer. It is a facet of life we all have to deal with at some point in our lives whether with a romantic interest or a friend and Tigelaar presented it well.
Great fun and a good message about working hard, playing harder and being true to yourself.
Published: April 2008
Format: Paperback, 304 pages