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Posts Tagged «realistic fiction»

Picture Me Gone

Monday, March 31st, 2014

picture me goneby Meg Rosoff, 239 pages, Grades 7 and up

Mila is one of those intuitive people; she can read people. She lives happily and uneventfully with her parents in London until her father’s old friend, Matthew, goes missing.  Mila and her dad, Gil, go to the United States to solve the mystery of Gil’s missing friend. It turns out Mila is not only helping her dad solve the puzzle of the moment, but also uncovering the details of an older mystery besides. Mila discovers no one is just good, or evil; people and relationships are complex and life can sometimes be pretty messy.

If you enjoy realistic fiction you might also like: Guitar Boy by M.J. Auch or Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise. If you are interested in the complexity of life you might also enjoy: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, or Dirty Little Secrets, by C. J. Omololu

So B. It

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

sobitby Sarah Weeks, 245 pages, Grades 6-9

Lucky for Heidi and her mom their neighbor Bernadette helped raise Heidi and take care of her mother as well since Heidi was a tiny baby. Heidi’s mother loves her, but she really could not have taken care of Heidi by herself; she is mentally disabled to the point that she only has about 27 words in her vocabulary. One of those words, “soof,” drives Heidi crazy because she cannot figure out what it means! Heidi, at 12, is becoming more and more curious about her past; she wants to understand who she is and where she fits in the world. When an old camera turns up in the back of the closet and provides some photographic clues Heidi is off, determined to find herself and her past without any help from anyone!

If you enjoy books about kids who persevere and triumph despite the odds, you might also enjoy Counting by7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

 

The League

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

the leagueby Thatcher Heldring, 219 pages, Grades 6-9

* STUDENT REVIEW *

Wyatt Parker is tired of being picked on by all the bullies in his school. His brother, Aaron, tells him about a secret football league called the League of Pain. He decides to play football to toughen himself up. The only problem with this is that he had promised his good friend Francis that he would go to golf camp. Now he has to decide which is better, going to golf camp where his dad excpects him to be, or figuring out a way to skip golf and play football with the older kids. Which will he choose?

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If you like sports books try these authors: Mike Lupica, Carl Deuker, Thomas H, Dygard, or Dan Gutman.

Counting By 7s

Monday, December 16th, 2013

counting by 7sby Holly Goldberg Sloan, 380 pages, Grades 6 and up

Willow Chance is a genius.  She meets a girl from Vietnam and spends the next 7 days studying Vietnamese.  She learns 85 phrases in addition to a number of verbs and their conjugations. Besides languages Willow also enjoys studying medical conditions and plants, but she has at twelve she has already had a pretty hard life.  She has been orphaned,  adopted, she has had problems in school – she has trouble making small talk and therefore making friends, and she is just about to start a new school which promises to be a challenge. That seems like enough, but besides all that her adoptive parents who love her and she loves so much suddenly die in a car accident. Willow, who likes to know how everything is going to work, finds herself in a place completely out of her control; it is the first time in her life that even counting by 7s has not helped her feel better.

If you enjoy books about kids in unusual circumstances you might also like:  Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

Wild Things

Friday, December 14th, 2012

wildthingsby Clay Carmichael, 241 pages, Grades 5-8

Zoe, who is eleven years old, has had a hard life already.  She hasn’t grown up with a lot of motherly affection or concern, and she has had to deal with a number of her mother’s boyfriends stealing her mother’s attention over the years as well.  

When Zoe’s mother dies, her Uncle Henry takes her in, but Zoe is not sure what she thinks about the arrangement.  Having been left to her own devices all her life has made Zoe very independent and capable; she knows how to take care of herself, but she is not sure if she can ever bring herself to trust anyone else.

Adults in her life have not really panned out, is Uncle Henry up for the challenge of a wild thing like Zoe? 

If you enjoy books with characters facing a challenging family situation, you might also like Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

Things a Brother Knows

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

brother knowsby Dana Reinhardt     242 pages     Grades 7 and up

Student Review

Levi Katznelson’s older brother, Boaz, has just returned from three years in the marines, years that were very difficult for Levi and his family. The whole town is excited he’s back. Everyone is calling Boaz a hero. But Boaz has changed since the last time Levi saw him. He stays shut in his room and refuses to open up to Levi. Unfortunately, Levi’s attempts to get Boaz back to his old self are shut down by Boaz’s unwillingness. When Levi discovers that Boaz is planning on leaving again, on a trip that will last all summer, he decides to go with him.

This young adult novel by Dana Reinhardt is not too long, but delivers a powerful message. It is a book is for people who are comfortable with adult humour and, at times, emotional situations. Narrated by Levi, a high schooler who has lived in his older brother’s shadow all his life, the story frequently reflects back to before Boaz left for the army when he was a high school star.  The best kind of novel is the kind that makes you reflect back, and thats exactly what Reinhardt has done. Through her writing you can feel the emotions of Levi whom, even though he is physically back, tries to bring his older brother home. AH

If you enjoy books that have to do with family in the army and finding yourself you might also like: Greetings from Planet Earth, by Barbara Kerley and Dogtag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge.

Middle of Nowhere

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Middle-of-Nowhere-cover-81-140x206by Caroline Anderson, 214 pages, Grades 5-8

Curtis has been a foster kid before the last time his mother disappeared.  That time he was only six, the same age Artie is now, and his foster brother was a bully who made his life miserable.  

That is why this time when his mom doesn’t come home Curtis takes care of things himself.  He is convinced if they let someone know she is missing, they will be separated and sent to terrible foster families.  It seems possible Curtis might manage it when Mom is only gone for a few days, but as those days stretch into weeks and weeks into months, it is too much for a 12-year-old boy to handle.  

Luckily when a neighbor lady asks Curtis for a hand, they realize they can help each other and the boys manage a little longer on their own, but Mrs. Burt decides they all need a summer vacation, so she takes them to “the middle of nowhere” and Curtis starts to worry he will never see his mother again. 

If you enjoy books about kids trying to make the best of a bad situation, you might also like:  Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

Out of My Mind

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

OutOfMyMindby Sharon Draper, 295 pages, Grades 5-8

Melody has an amazing memory for detail; she is extremely observant and intelligent.  The only problem is, no one around her can tell how much she understands because her cerebral palsy makes it almost impossible for her to communicate.  Her parents believe she is smart and her caretakers can see she has a good brain, in fact, one of her caretakers comes up with a system that helps Melody communicate simple things, but Melody craves so much more. All of her ideas, thoughts, jokes and insights are trapped inside her.  How can she get the recognition she deserves for her brilliant mind if no one can really tell what is going on in there?

If you enjoy books about kids who overcome adversity you might also enjoy Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

Waiting For Normal

Friday, January 6th, 2012

waiting-for-normalby Leslie Connor,  290 pages, Grades 6-8

Addie’s life has a lot of “twists and turns” that she doesn’t expect.  She used to live with her Mommers, Dwight and her two little sisters, but after what she calls her big mistake everything changes.  Now, she and Mommers are moving into a trailer home and “the littles” (her sisters) are moving away with their dad, Dwight.  

Addie is good at making the best of almost every situation; her mom calls the trailer a piece of junk in the middle of no where, but Addie calls it an adventure and sees her new loft-room as cozy, not cramped.  Even when there is no food in the house, she can create a delicious meal, in fact, she has invented a repertoire of toast-dinner recipes.  

Addie’s winning personality makes her a lot of friends, but her life is far from normal; she might need more than optimism to get her to out of danger in the end.

Other stories about challenging family situations are:  Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Grounded, by Kate Klise, and Ruby Holler, or Bloomability, by Sharon Creech.

 

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

A Long Walk To Water

Thursday, January 5th, 2012
alongwalktowaterby Linda Sue Park, 120 pages, Grades 5-8
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Salva is at school when they attack.  The teacher sends the boys running out the back door and into the forest to get away from the invading rebel soldiers.  

This is the beginning of Salva’s journey through southern Sudan into Ethiopia on the run from the war sweeping his country, and he is on his own; he was separated from his family when their village was attacked.  

This novel is based on the true life of Salva Dut who now lives in the United States and has started an organization that digs wells to help people in the country where he grew up.

Salva Dut’s website:  http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/salvas-story/

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy stories about ingenuity and survival you might also like the biography by William Kamkwamba called:  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

The Cardturner

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

the_cardturnerby Louis Sachar,  336 pages,   Grades 7-adult

At first Alton thought being forced to visit his elderly uncle was going to be pretty boring.  He was pretty sure his uncle didn’t even know who he was, even though his mother had been making him call Uncle Lester, a.k.a. Trap,  his “favorite uncle” ever since he was little.

He was even more certain that this was going to be boring when his uncle explained that what he needed was a cardturner for his bridge games each week since he could no longer see the cards; Trap had recently lost his eyesight.   Alton could only remember old people playing bridge, and the game seemed to include a lot of complicated rules, not particularly, but he agreed to help his “favorite uncle.”

His “favorite uncle” also turned out to be pretty crabby at first, and was not a man to give compliments very often, but everyone has a story; there is a lot more to Trap’s story than Alton ever could have guessed. The mystery of Trap’s past is entertaining, bridge is intriguing, and when a pretty girl enters the picture Alton’s boring summer turns into one of the best of his life.

Connections:  If you enjoy Louis Sachar, you might also like Holes. Another great read about younger and older generations connecting is called The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly.

 

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

The Education of Hailey Kendrick

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Hailey Final Coverby Eileen Cook 256 pages     grades 7 and up

Hailey Kendrick got the whole school on probation; no one can leave campus because of her.  She has gone from popular to outcast in one night.

Hailey attends a fancy boarding, so fancy, in fact, children of movie stars, and teen stars themselves, are her classmates.  She has no money worries, obviously, she is popular and is dating one of the most handsome guys in the school.  Her life seemed pretty perfect until she got everyone on probation.

What is going on?  Has Hailey lost her mind, or was there something already boiling beneath the surface that just had to burst free?  And, how is she going to manage life when everyone she knows has dumped her?

Other fun realistic fiction with teen girl central characters are: Heist Society, by  Ally Carter, Rules of the Road, by Joan Bauer, and a fantasy with a teen girl central character is Matched, by Ally Condie.

 

Guitar Boy

Friday, May 13th, 2011
guitar boyby M. J. Auch      260 pages        Grades 6-9
Travis is out on the street.  His father, at his wits end after his mother’s accident, lost his temper and kicked him out of the house with nothing but the clothes on his back and his mom’s old guitar. Not only does Travis have to worry about how to survive on the street,  he is also worried about the rest of his family. His younger sister had to give up going to school to take care of their three younger siblings; the three little ones are missing their mom, and don’t really understand what has happened to her; his father is so distraught he has lost one job and cannot find another; his mother, rather than being helped to recover, has been housed in a convalescent home with a lot of people not expected to get any better.

Travis has his hands full, and his pockets empty. Guitar Boy is a different kind of survival story.

Other stories about difficult family situations are Bloomability, by Sharon Creech, and If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko.

 

Grounded

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Groundedby Kate Klise 196 pages Grades 6-7Daralynn’s father, brother and baby sister died in a plane accident, and Daralynn is only alive because she was grounded that day and had been forced to remain behind.

After the tragedy, her mother becomes the hairdresser for the dead at the local mortuary to make ends meet, but it is not easy to recover from such a shattering loss.  Daralynn’s mother is not only over-protective of her, but also seems to be angry about everything, and kind to no one.

Even Daralynn’s Aunt Josie, her father’s sister, is often the victim of Mother’s attacks.  When Josie starts dating Daralynn’s mother’s competition, things really heat up.  But, there is something suspicious about “Uncle Clem,” Josie’s new beaux, and Daralynn’s investigation might just prove to be the thing her family needs to pull them back together.

If you enjoyed Regarding the Fountain by Klise, you won’t be disappointed by this sweet narration.  Another great book about family perseverance in the face of tragedy is Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine

 

Slick

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

slick 116 pages  Grades 5-8

Thirteen year-old Liza’s parents are divorced, and she has found that one way to take away the sadness is through DIY (Do It Yourself) projects like making things from recycled items and stuff she finds thrifting (shopping at thrift stores).  She doesn’t like her mom’s new boyfriend and becomes convinced he is up to no good when she finds out how the oil company he works for is ruining the environment in Guatemala.  Liza decides to take action and forms a group called GRRR! (Girls for Renewable Resources Really!) to expose the company.

Connections:  For other stories of activism, try reading Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French or Hoot and Flush by Carl Hiaasen.

The Running Dream

Friday, March 25th, 2011
running dreamby Wendelin Van Draanen,  336 pages,  Grades 7 and up“‘Fifty-five flat!’ Kyro shouts, ‘Fifty-five flat!’

It’s a new personal best for me.
A new record for the league.” (11)

At sixteen Jessica is on top of her game, about to take league, maybe even go to state, when the track team’s bus is hit by an out-of-control car.  One of the team loses her life, and Jessica’s right leg is crushed.

Jessica is a runner; running is not just something she likes to do, it is woven into her identity, so the accident takes more than her leg, it makes her question who she is.

Personal strength, friendship, family, and courage pull Jessica forward on her journey to discover who she is and who she can become.  It is as inspirational a journey as the many true journeys of people in similar situations.

The following is a link to a TED talk with Aimee Mullens, also a runner, called “Aimee Mullans and Her 12 Pair of Legs.” http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom

Monday, February 7th, 2011

george clooneyBy Susin Nielsen,  229 pages,  Grades 6-8

Violet is having a hard year.She almost poisons her step-sisters (unintentionally, of course), she breaks a classmate’s nose (less than unintentionally), she crashes into a movie star’s car (honestly by mistake), only to name a few of the mishaps of her seventh grade year.Really, Violet is only tying to make it through middle school, survive visits with her dad and Jennica (her dad’s new wife, who is fake in more ways than one), and make sure her mom doesn’t fall for the wrong guy again, but somehow nothing seems to go as planned.If only she could get George Clooney to write her back, she is sure he will love her mom and make her real sister’s and her life much better.

If you enjoy realistic fiction with a bit of humor like Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison, orAbsolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, then Dear George Clooney… might be for you.

Keeper

Monday, January 17th, 2011

keeperBy Kathi Appelt, 399 pages  Grades 5-7

Keeper has messed up… really messed up, and she needs to fix things.  During the blue moon, she plans to visit the sandbar where mermaids gather, to find her mother who disappeared when Keeper was 3 years-old.  Keeper has a plan and is sure that her A to A plan will work.

Check out the book trailer at the author’s website.

Connections:  For another story that make you question a character’s reality, try reading Signal by Cynthia DeFelice.  Another magical story by Kathi Appelt is The Underneath.

Scrawl

Friday, November 19th, 2010

ShulmanScrawlv2Finalby Mark Shulman  p.  230   Grades 7 and up.

Tod Munn has a bad reputation; he has been known to steal the wimps’ lunch money, push his way into the front of the  lunch line and shove people into the lockers when they least expect it.  He is not someone you want to mess with if you don’t want to get hurt.  Naturally Tod has landed himself in detention, and this time it is for something really bad, but he is not outside raking leaves with his “droogs,” instead he is spending time one-on-one with the school counselor, Mrs. Woodrow.

For detention he has  to write in a journal every day after school.   He spends weeks with the counselor in a hot school room writing and writing until it feels like his hand might fall off.  Tod thinks the counselor is trying to “fix the bad guy,” and he doesn’t think it is going to work, either. Who do you think is right; is the bully really a bad guy, or is there more to the story than meets the eye?

Connections:  If you like books about tough kids you might like Small Steps by Louis Sachar or if you enjoy books written in journal form you might also enjoy Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech.

Mockingbird

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

mockingbird-by-kathyrn-erskine-book-cover-1By Kathryn Erskine, 235 pages, Grade 6-8

Caitlin and her father are feeling broken after tragedy strikes their family a second time.  Caitlin’s mother died of cancer three years before and now her brother, Devon, is dead after a violent incident at school.   On “the day their lives fell apart”, as Caitlin calls it, Devon’s door was slammed shut and Caitlin doesn’t feel like she can open it.  She misses her brother, and his  room and all it holds especially a special place next to his bed where she used go for comfort.  It was Devon who used to help her cope with the worlds of the town, the classroom and the playground.   He  always said Caitlin was brave; he even liked to call her Scout after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Now that Caitlin’s dad spends a lot of time crying  and Caitlin, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has to be especially brave.  She would like to help her family put the pieces back together, but she is not sure how to do that.  After talking to the school counselor one day, she decides what they need is  “closure” and she is on a mission to get it.  But, first she has to find out what it is and how you get a hold of  it.

For other stories about how families find closure try Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Totally Joe

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

totallyjoeBy James Howe, 189 pages  Grades 6-8

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>“Being who you are isn’t a choice.”Although he had always lived this life lesson, it wasn’t until his favorite aunt gave him a button printed with these words that thirteen, year-old Joe really thought about what it meant for him, as a gay 7th grader, as well as for his schoolmates.Joe’s family and friends have always encouraged him to be himself (including dressing-up in dresses, playing with Barbies and cooking in an Easy-Bake oven) and he has always embraced his originality even when it led to teasing. Through an alphabiography project for his teacher, Joe shares his growing awareness of himself and his friends.

Connection:  Joe and the other characters were first introduced in Howe’s novel, The Misfits.  For other stories where characters share their life experiences through school writing assignments, try reading Love That Dog or Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge, or Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.

Runaway Twin

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

runaway twinBy Peg Kehret, 197 pages  Grades 5-8

“Most people who have a life-changing experience survive a terrible injury or disease.  My life was transformed by a craving for Twinkies.”

Twinkies remind Sunny Skyland of her twin sister who she hasn’t seen since their mother and grandmother died in car accident when they were 3 years-old.  A sudden windfall provides the funding for Sunny to set off, alone, on a cross-country journey to find her sister, Starr, with only an old photograph to guide her.  Along the way, she picks up a four-legged traveling companion and braves challenges from both man and nature.

Connections:  For other stories about kids in foster care, try reading The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson or Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson.

Wild Girl

Monday, January 18th, 2010

wild girlBy Patricia Reilly Giff, 147 pages.  Grades 4-7

Who is Wild Girl?  Is she the skittish filly from South Carolina or Lidie, the twelve year-old girl from Brazil.  After being raised by her aunt and uncle for the past five years, Lidie moves  to New York to join her father and brother, who train race horses for a living.  Her dad and brother are expecting the pink and Disney loving seven year-old that they remember from back home in Brazil, and Lidie is having a hard time showing them the strong, capable young woman that she has become.  While Lidie struggles with her new life in a new home, new country, new school and new language, the filly is also having a hard time getting comfortable in her new home.

Connections:  For other stories sharing the immigrant experience, try reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan,  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, or Nory Ryan’s Song also by Giff.  For other horse stories, try reading Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan, The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley, or Season of Ponies by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Bystander

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

bystander-james-preller-paperback-cover-artby James Preller   p. 226   Grades 5-8

Bully?  Accomplice?  Bystander?  Victim? Upstander? Which will Eric be?  As a new student at Central Middle School, he quickly sizes up the situation and recognizes immediately that pudgy David is a victim and that good looking, charming Griffin is at the top of the pecking order.  At first, Eric is drawn in by Griffin’s charisma and attention but soon sees the creep beneath the smile.  When ulitmately Eric refuses to do what Griffin demands, he becomes the target.   Eric, however, is not a victim, and with the help of Griff’s ex-girlfriend, he devises a plan.

Connections:  Other books with this theme are Shredderman: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen, Schooled by Gordon Korman, and  Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn.  Young adult titles for mature readers include The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, Don’t Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer, and Inventing Elliot  by Graham Gardner.  For nonfiction, try Bullying : How to Deal with Taunting, Teasing, and Tormenting  by Kathleen Winkler, Sticks and Stones by Karen L. Maudlin or Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain written and illustrated Trevor Romain.

The Georges and the Jewels

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

the georges andby Jane Smiley   p. 232  Grades 5-8

If you own a horse or wish you did, this is the book for you.  Famous adult author Jane Smiley, who wrote Horse Heaven, seems to have written this book with middle school girls in mind.  Seventh grader Abby Lovitt lives on a horse ranch in California.  It sounds like a perfect situation for a girl who loves horses, but it isn’t.  Her father buys and trains horses to sell.  He doesn’t want the family, especially Abby to become attached to the horses, so he won’t allow her to name them.  The geldings are all called George and the mares are Jewel.   But each horse has its own personality, and Abby adds an adjective to each name.  Ornery George becomes her challenge.  Her dad can’t sell the horses until they are tame enough for a girl to ride them.  Ornery George has bucked Abby off so many times that she defies her strict father and refuses to ride him  . . . until one day when a stranger arrives at the ranch.

Connections:  Here are some other good horse stories:  Dairy Queeen by Catherine Murdock; Willow King by Chris Platt; and Hero by S. L. Rottman.  Two short story collections are Horse & Pony Stories compiled by Christine Pullein-Thompsonand Horse Stories edited by Felicity Trotman.  Classics include King of the Wind by Margerite Henry, National Velvet, and My Friend Flicka.

Cricket Man

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

cricket manby Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  p. 196  Grade:  Young Adult

During the summer before eighth grade, Kenny Sykes has begun each morning rescuing the hundreds of crickets that keep jumping into his backyard swimming pool.  As an inside joke with his little brother, Kenny assumes the super-hero identity Cricket Man and creates a t-shirt that he wears to school concealed under his regular shirt.  The rest of his time he spends skateboarding or spying on and trying to get the attention of his beautiful sixteen-year-old neighbor, Jodie Poindexter.  When Jodie appears to have fallen into a deep depression, it’s Cricket Man to the rescue.

Connections:  These novels for young adults also focus on special and unusual friendships:  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes; The Wild Kid; Stoner and Spaz and Define Normal.

Dairy Queen

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Diary-Queenby Catherine Gilbert Murdock.  p.  274  Grades 7-8

What a summer!  Fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, works dawn to dusk on her family’s dairy farm after her father has hip surgery.  Life is pretty dismal until the coach from her high school’s rival team asks D.J to coach his budding quarterback, the gorgeous Brian Nelson.  While training and doing farm chores, the two teenagers become friends, but things get complicated when D.J. tries out for her high school’s football team.

Connections:  The sequel is Off SeasonRunning Loose by Chris Crutcher is another football romance.