Sunday, April 4, 2010

Gym Candy by Carl Deuker

Main character: High school football player Mick Johnson
Location: Washington state
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Sports, Football, Steroids

I knew this would be a good book before I even read it. Why? Well, the fact that it was on the 2009-2010 Lone Star Reading List was a big hint, but the thing that clinched it was that this book was never on the shelf when I went looking for it.

The book is about a young man who falls into using steroids. The thing I really liked about the story is that you see that he is really a good guy. He's not some wicked drug fiend, not a vain muscle-bound freak. He's a kid that loves football and desperately wants to be the best that he can be. Part of this comes from wanting to please his father who was a football player himself when he was younger--until a knee injury knocked him permanently out of the game. But don't think that the dad is one to push Mick so hard that he turns to drugs; indeed, the dad is as anxious for Mick's approval and Mick is for dad's approval.

Instead, it really is a slow slide, and it almost seems logical for Mick to go from lifting weights to using protein powder to taking injections to increase his strength and endurance. Even when his trainer gives him a complicated schedule of cocktails, his explanation makes sense. Well of course you want this to build muscle but you don't want the 'roid rage so you take this and then you add this to prevent depression.

A great book and a sobering look at how easy it can be to become an addict.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee

Main character: Teenager Danny and his friends, Ash, Howie and Pike
Location: The Big Empty part of northern Canada
Time period: contemporary
Genre: YA Fiction, Horror

I really enjoyed this scary story which eschewed the common monsters--vampires, zombies, werewolves--in favor of a lesser-known creature from Native American folklore--the wendigo. And, like the best horror films, the monster is mostly an unseen menace terrorizing a small group of teenagers in the dead of winter in an almost deserted town in far northern Canada. The main character, Danny, is a newcomer to the town, which is a popular summer vacation spot but in winter is no one's idea of fun. His friends are military brats whose fathers are stationed at the nearby base. Ash is a champion boxer and a Native American--it's her father that tells Danny the legend of the wendigo--and just on the cusp of becoming Danny's girlfriend. Howie and Pike are brothers but as different as can be. Big brother Pike is a borderline delinquent who is fond of demolition and military ordnance, but is also fiercely protective of little brother Howie, the brains of the group.

The suspense builds slowly at first--was Danny followed by a pack of dogs, a monster, or just his overactive imagination? And are he and Howie really under the monster's influence, or just sick with a rare, incurable disease? And what about the teens who have disappeared, a few at a time, every so often, through the years? Were they discontented runaways sick of life in a small town, or were they the monster's previous victims?

Bonechiller is on the 2010 TAYSHAS High School Reading list.