________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 19 . . . . January 20, 2012


Offside! (Sports Stories).

Sandra Diersch.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2011.
128 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55277-851-7.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Crystal Sutherland.

**** /4



“We have to do this, Leeesh,” Stacie said firmly, her eyes cold, “I know Jeremy’s your stepdad and everything, but we have to let him know how we feel.”

Alecia was suddenly very angry. Angry at Lexi, for starting all this nonsense, but angry at Stacie, too, and the others who agreed with her. What did they think was going to happen?

“He could quit, Stace,” she said, her voice shaking.

“I doubt it. But we’ll take our chances, right girls?” Stacie asked, scanning the team. Just about every girl nodded in agreement. It seems Nancy was a minority.

“Here’s Laurie,” someone said.

Stacie pulled Laurie aside and filled her in. Alecia saw Laurie go white.

Alecia has the kind of life most teenagers would envy: she’s popular, has lots of friends, plays on what is set to become the #1 soccer team, and has a mom and a stepfather, Jeremy, that love and care about her. Alecia knows this and really does feel lucky. The problem is that the only thing she wants is the one thing she can’t have: her real dad who died when she was young. It might not be so bad if she remembered him, but all she has are some pictures she found in a drawer, pictures that don’t mean anything to her. Jeremy wants to be her real dad, but he could never be as great as her real dad. Even if she doesn’t remember anything about him, Alecia’s positive her birth father would have been better,.

     Alecia is stressed enough when Jeremy comes up with a great idea: a friend from high school has a daughter who would be perfect for their already perfect soccer team. Lexi is a giant pain and is doing everything she can to ruin the team with her bad attitude. No one except Jeremy thinks Lexi deserves a chance, and Alecia doesn’t want to disappoint her teammates or Jeremy. Alecia wants to side with her friends, but she doesn’t want to disappoint Jeremy either. Alecia’s friends think she’ll do whatever Jeremy says; they just don’t understand, and Lexi is a know-it-all who thinks Alecia is lucky to have Jeremy. No one understands, and Alecia is doubting herself more and more. If her real dad were here, he would know exactly what to do…right?

     Sandra Diersch’s characters capture readers from page one and hold them to the last, leaving them satisfied and wishing they could keep following the teens beyond the end of the book. Diersch’s characters are rich in personality and believable even when their behaviour is extreme: Stacie is stubborn to a fault; Laurie cries over the smallest thing; Lexi thinks she’s the boss even though she’s just joined the team. Readers will recognize each of these characters from their own lives and will surely take sides and, along with Alecia, will find themselves questioning their loyalties. Readers need not be sports fans to enjoy Offside!

     I highly recommend Offside! The book moves quickly, smoothly moving between and connecting Alecia’s problems at home, school, and on her soccer team, the Burrards. The characters are genuine and believable, and the connections, sometimes easy to predict, between characters make the book a fantastic read. Readers will certainly want to read more from the 100-plus books in this series.

Highly Recommended.

Crystal Sutherland is a MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate living in Halifax, NS. She is solo-librarian for the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, an arms-length government agency created to educate the public and advise the provincial government on issues of interest and concern to women.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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