Leverage by Joshua Cohen

[Cover]

Bibliographic information: Leverage. Joshua Cohen. Dutton Books, 2011. $17.99. 425p. ISBN-13:  9780525423065.
Summary: Danny is aiming for a full-ride sports scholarship in gymnastics and Kurt is looking to start over in a place where nobody knows who he is or his background. Kurt gets a scholarship to go to Oregrove High School in hopes that he will be the new star of their football team. Danny and his teammates tend to be picked on by the football players because they are small. Kurt proves himself to be a great football player, but he wants to improve his touchdown dance, so he seeks out Danny so that he may teach Kurt how to do a back spring. Their start of a friendship marks the start of something even worst for the gymnastics and Kurt.
Reading level and interest level: RL: 14 and up IL: Grades 10-12
Review: This enthralling tale is told through the view-point of our two main characters interchanging from chapter to chapter. Cohen does an outstanding job on building his characters from weak nobodies to strong people. As you read you get to watch Danny and Kurt as people grow as well as their friendship. A friendship that is thought to be unlikely, but turns out to be an alliance that breaks the barrier holding them back from revealing the horrible conditions students are living under. Cohen writes with emotion that can be felt through his words and having the two view-points not only gives you insight into each character it leaves you anticipating what the next character will do and what they are thinking. This is a hard to put down book with a hopeful ending that will speak to teens on a personal level.
Readers’ annotation:  It’s the gymnasts versus the football players. Who do you think is going to win?
Bibliotherapeutic usefulness: If you are being bullied by a group of people then this book will leave you feeling like you can overcome your problems. It not only covers bullying, but it also talks a bit about suicide, rape, violence and steroids and how these things should be avoided at all costs. If a troubled soul were to read this book they would be left feeling more positive about resolving their situation. They would also know that sometimes you can find friends in the most unlikely of situations.
Issues present: There is bullying, violence and abuse from other students, rape, suicide, teachers that allow and offer their students/athletes steroids to use, and objectionable language. These are all things that could be potentially controversial with parents or teachers. However, this title could give insight and clarity for somebody who is experiencing any of these issues. After reading this book they might realize that they should talk to somebody if they are being abused or bullied and that steroids are not to be used even if a teacher wants you too use them. The positive ending helps create a book that will leave the reader with a positive feeling that creates a productive outcome for them.
Booktalk ideas: Pg. 1: from start to “CRACK!” – Gives some insight into Danny’s character.
Pg. 262: “The only way to jump off a cliff…” keep going until you get to “Sploosh!” – Something to grab their attention.
Compare Danny and Kurt the two main characters.
Genre or subject:
Realistic fiction, bullying, football, friendship
Readalikes: Raider’s Night by Lipsyte, Brutal, Break, Split, and The Monster Variations
Author’s website: http://www.leveragethebook.com/html/about.php
Awards and lists: Cybils Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2011), YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (Top Ten) (2012)
Links to reviews: Booklist: http://www.booklistonline.com/Leverage-Joshua-C-Cohen/pid=4524187
Why I chose it: I liked the idea of having two view points of almost opposite charters. I also liked the idea of reading about a gymnast because I have always been fond of gymnastics and thought they could do amazing things.

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