CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.
Paralyzed. (Orca Sports).
Victoria, BC: Orca Books, 2008.
169 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
“Can we go to the hospital?” I said it so fast I surprised even myself. “I’m kind of worried about Nate. I mean, he wasn’t even moving.”
Dad had already left the stadium parking lot. As I spoke, he pulled the car over and stopped.
“Reggie,” he said, turning his head and looking directly into my eyes. Mom was staring at me too. “It was an accident. What happened to that boy wasn’t your fault.”
I knew it wasn’t my fault. Why did everybody feel like they had to tell me that.
Number 77 for the Lincoln High School football team is Reggie Scott—a middle linebacker who loves football and has eagerly been looking forward to his senior year on the team. Things go awry when, in the first game of the season, the Milbury High School tight end, Nate Brown, suffers a serious spinal injury in a tackle against Reggie. The problem is compounded because Reggie “Stick 'em'” Scott has a deserved reputation for being a hard-hitter and a fierce competitor.
I found Paralyzed a deeply engaging story. I read almost the entire 169 pages in one sitting, eventually finishing the book in my second sitting. Although told in a straightforward, no-holds-barred manner, this is not a simple, one-dimensional sports story. The football content is well written, but this is not just a football book. The author, Jeff Rud, does a wonderful job of achieving the right content balance of football action, adolescent friendships, high school insecurities, and family issues. Rud’s portrayal of the emotional cauldron associated with a spinal injury is extremely well written—the injured player’s mother’s inappropriate outbursts are entirely understandable, despite their irrationality. Reggie’s coach tells him, “She doesn’t hate you, Reggie. She just hates what’s happened to her son.”
Paralyzed is told in the first person, from Reggie’s perspective. The first person voice was a good story-telling choice because it allows the reader inside Reggie’s head as he struggles to deal with his mixed emotions. Vacillating between confusion, hope, guilt and fear, Reggie logically concludes that he is not to blame. Where such serious injuries are concerned though, Rud shows us that logic takes a back seat to other emotions.
This book will pleasantly surprise readers used to the same old predictable sports stories for boys. Well done, Jeff Rud and Orca Books. For a very good portrayal of emotional turmoil, this is one football story that is worthy of reading, regardless of how much the reader loves or loathes sport.
Gregory Bryan, who loves sports, teaches children’s literature at the University of Manitoba.
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