Saturday, September 10, 2011

Review: Pop

by Gordan Korman
Harper Teen Hardcover
ISBN 9780061742286
260 pages
Release date: September 1, 2009
Available for Purchase
Amazon          Barnes and Noble

I chose to read this book because my middle school son tried to check this out of the school library, only to find out he needed my permission to read it. After finding several reviews online, I still did not know what was questionable about the book, so decided I needed to read this for myself.

Here is a synopsis from Goodreads, where is rates 3.78 stars.

When Marcus moves to a new town, he doesn’t have any friends. While practicing football for impending tryouts, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with former NFL star Charlie Popovich, nicknamed “The King of Pop”. Charlie is a charismatic prankster, and the best football player Marcus has ever seen. But when his behavior starts getting more and more erratic, Marcus learns the secret that Charlie’s family is desperate to hide: Charlie is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s from the concussions he sustained while playing professional football. 

As Marcus starts at his new school, he meets the starting quarterback: Troy Popovich. Right from the beginning, Marcus and Troy disagree — about football, about Troy’s ex-girlfriend Alyssa, but most of all, about what’s good for Charlie’s future. Marcus is betting that he knows what’s best for The King of Pop. And he will risk everything to help his friend.

My Review
Caution! Unlike most of my reviews, this one WILL contain some spoilers. Read at your own risk!

   This is a good story, and and I think boys will especially enjoy it. The story centers around Marcus, a high school junior who is new to town, and Charlie Popovitch, a former NFL player. Marcus was a standout quarterback at his old school, but is not received well at his new school, where the team has an outstanding quarterback, who happens to be the son of Charlie Popovitch. The team is also in pursuit of a record 2nd consecutive undefeated season. Marcus takes to working out on his own in the town park, when he meets up with Charlie. He is not aware that Charlie is either the former NFLer OR the father of the team quarterback, and is confused by Charlie's behavior. Charlie sometimes acts more like a misguided teenager than a responsible adult, pulling pranks and walking out of stores without paying. Marcus soon discovers, through a Google search, that Charlie is among a number of NFL players suffering from early-onset Alzheimers, the result of multiple concussions. This is a fact Charlie's family works hard to deny and to hide from the community. The book is full of football, which will make it interesting to boys.

There may be reasons you would not want your 12 year old to read this book, although I think it would be fine for most 12 year olds. Read the rest of this only if you don't care that there are spoilers!
There is some very mild sexual content. The head cheerleader offers to 'manage' the team 'equipment'. There is one reference to making out in a closet and while Marcus ofen has thoughts about tackling, he also has thoughts a 'different kind of body contact'. But I think for many 12 years olds, these things would go right past them, and if it didn't, chances are they've been exposed to more on TV. There are also parties with alcohol. And Marcus does things that are not quite within the law more than once, but always for good reason. For example, he takes Charlie to his college homecoming against his family's wishes, effectively kidnapping him. This could lead to some good discussions with kids about standing up for what one thinks is right, regardless of consequences; or of knowing when right is right and wrong is wrong. But to me, posibly the worst thing is the ending, where Charlie is about to be placed in an Alzheimers unit, and knows it. He is watching the final game of the season from the stands, and pursues a hawk to the top of the bleachers (read the book to know why) and then steps OVER the bleachers to his death. Most people believe is was an accident caused by Charlie being unaware of what he was doing, but Marcus feels he saw comprehension by Charlie and that it was a conscious decision to step off the bleachers. Some kids may have a trouble with this. But I think in general, this is appropriate for middle grades and a story boys, in particular, will enjoy reading.

My Rating:  ★★★★ 4 stars

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