CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 30 . . . . April 5, 2013
Connor Trent is a hardworking 16-year-old aspiring to become a professional tennis player. Unfortunately, his pockets aren't deep enough for his big dreams, and so he works at the Bytowne Tennis Club, using his wages to help pay for his training. Training for tennis tournaments and focusing on his rivalry with Rex Hunter keep his mind off his troubles at home: his father had left his mother for a younger woman, leaving them in poverty. Tennis also helps Connor make sense of his feelings for Maddy, the club owner's beautiful daughter. When the club's fundraising efforts are sabotaged, Maddy and Connor suspect that someone wants to bankrupt the club in order to obtain its prime riverfront property.
Kate Jaimet has written a fast-paced story from a first-person narrative. She easily explains the rules of the game whilst maintaining the excitement of a match and conveying the adrenaline rush a player feels during competition. Pre-teen and teen boys will find Jaimet's adrenaline-soaked descriptions of the matches to be a fast and exhilarating read. However, what is most commendable about the book is the character Jaimet has created in Connor. She bypasses a flat, stock jock-character for a more mature young man who contemplates morality and how it would translate in action.
These contemplations are exemplified in three situations: Connor's relationship with Maddy, his interactions with Quinte and the tug-of-war between doing what's right for himself as an individual as opposed to what is right for the group/community. In his interactions with Maddy, Connor recognizes that he is physically attracted to her and that he respects her ability as a fellow tennis player. Respect for Maddy wreaks havoc on his physical impulses as he navigates through social circumstances not often discussed in teen literature. While it is commonly socially appropriate that a young man restrain the desire to kiss or sexually touch a girl, it is not so commonly known as to how to physically deal with a woman whose physical skill in a sport one respects. Do you restrain your abilities and let her win? Or do you play to the best of your ability against her?
With Quinte, Connor's sense of social justice is tested as he fights his urge to turn him in to the police. He knows that Quinte is a convenient scapegoat that would lead to the arrest of the remaining vandals. As eager as Connor is to apprehend the boys who vandalized his club, he recognizes that Quinte, himself, is a victim. He is someone who is not intellectually capable of thinking for himself and was used by a gang of boys to commit acts he likely would not have done on his own.
Finally, Connor's sense of right and wrong is strongly tested when he considers what he would do if he won the money from the Archibald Cross Memorial Cup. He wants the money badly for himself as it would be his ticket out of his mundane life and into his dream as a professional tennis player. However, the money would also save his tennis club from bankruptcy, thus allowing for the club to continue providing its services to the community.
Jaimet has written an engaging story filled with vivid descriptions, insightful characters and a fast-paced plot line that will appeal to pre-teen and teen boys.
Jenice Batiforra is a Branch Head Librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.
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