Desert Isle Keeper
Home Field Advantage
What a delightful book. Dahlia Adler’s Home Field Advantage combines the serious with the fun and light, providing a novel with a whiff of the 1980s about it together with lovable, memorable characters that will please any discerning teenager looking for an afternoon’s read.
Amber McCloud is a cheerleader with a mission – to become cheer captain before her senior year, get a college scholarship to a good school, and get the heck out of Atherton. This extracurricular is the only thing she has on her college application which might work with recruiters, so she’s determined to make it there come heck or high water. Unfortunately, there’s a rather mountainous obstacle in her path to success – the football team’s quarterback and local football star, Robbie, has just died in a car accident while driving drunk. The whole school is in mourning, and when the school announces that someone new will be admitted to the school to fill Robbie’s shoes, no one is prepared.
Enter Jaclyn (Jack) Walsh, who is fire on the field but tough and quiet off of it. The team is shocked that they suddenly have a girl standing in Robbie’s shoes, and that she then has the temerity to score more than he did. Some feel that her success is somehow a disgrace to golden boy Robbie’s memory. The only person involved with the Atherton Alligators who tries to welcome Jack with anything resembling warmth is Amber.
All of Amber’s social and neighborly warmth begins to result in a defrosting of feelings between her and Jack. As Amber tries to figure out what this means – and tries to keep her in-name-only relationship with Miguel Santiago, another guy on the squad, from blowing up – Jack tries to navigate life in Atherton. Can love follow?
Again, this is a wonderful story, combining high school life with tiny interpersonal conflicts and a wonderful romance. Amber is peppy, self-possessed and filled with determination; Jack is tough and resolute, shoulders hunched to deflect emotional blows. They figure out who they are and who they might be in fits and awkward starts, just like real teenagers, and their romance is well-written and alive, a firecracker of a connection. Along with them for the ride are Miguel, his secret love interest, Malcolm, and Amber’s fellow good-girl cheerleader, Cara, who harbors a secret about the seemingly perfect Robbie. Their wider world feels well lived-in and fully realized. Maybe the book’s grasp of football is a tiny bit weak, but as a neophyte I could follow along, and Jack and Amber’s passion for their individual sports left me appreciative of their own feelings.
Home Field Advantage manages to be both wonderfully romantic and utterly realistic. The kids in this story come up against a lot of your typical peer pressure situations and have to survive a lot of ugliness. It’s a wonderful book, an enrapturing tale that’s a ton of fun to soak up.
Note: The novel includes bullying – including a threatened outing – misogyny/sexism, teenage pregnancy and off-page sexual activity, blackmail, and an implied off-page miscarriage and abortion.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier