Plot without spoilers...Danny is gymnast with dreams of a college sports scholarship. Kurt is a football player trying to escape the nightmare of his troubled past. Then, a horrific incident of school violence binds them into an unusual friendship. Cohen's exploration of a terrifying side of high school athletics is counter-pointed by fascinating depictions of the diverse individuals who make up sport teams, each with different reasons for playing and different lengths to which they'll go to protect their teammates.
Literary highlights...Cohen tells his story from the alternating viewpoints of Kurt and Danny, often revisiting the same incident in two consecutive chapters, giving readers an almost cinematic experience of a given scene. His descriptions of Danny's routines on the high bar make you feel like you're flying through the air with him. And the way Cohen writes football behemoth Kurt's stutter is heartbreaking--a great metaphor for the involuntary silence that has been invoked upon others in the story.
Finally, just gotta say...LEVERAGE made me think hard about the pain not-belonging can cause--the risks some teens take, and the cruelties they are willing to inflict upon others, to avoid being alone. This is an important story on the topic of bullying but, more importantly, it is simply a powerful and terrific read.
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