So a book about football and football players in a small fishing town does not really sound like something I'd be into, but I loved this book!
Calling it comic (as the blurb does) is something of a stretch, to be honest. There's a lot of very dark stuff in this book, from the broken marriage of the protagonists' parents to the devastating natural disaster that has struck the town for the second time in these teens' short lives. There are funny moments though, and the narrator's sardonic view of his world offers some humor too.
Wyatt is the fat kid who has always lived in his older brother's shadow. Brett is a star football player whose season was cut short last year when a player from a rival team intentionally injured him. It's Brett's last chance to shine this year, with college scholarships on the line. Wyatt tries out for the team in an attempt to finally have a relationship with his brother after a lifetime of feeling that they have little in common.
He's surprised when he makes the team, and even more so when it turns out his bulk, which has long been cause for ridicule, proves valuable on the field. The team's season goes from strength to strength, generating a kind of town-wide pride that is much needed as the community's fishing industry is destroyed by a toxic algae.
So when Brett is concussed during a game, he swears Wyatt to secrecy, knowing the town is relying on him and the team to raise their profile on a national level and receive much-needed funding.
I enjoyed the relationship between the brothers in this book very much. They are very different people each responding to the darkness of their broken home in his own way. Brett initially seems cool and stand-offish, but as Wyatt, and the reader, grow closer to him, his quiet, considered manner is revealed to be his defence mechanism.
The insights into the male world of the locker room and football field are vividly drawn and the behaviour of these boys is often appalling, yet totally understandable in the context of their lives.
So I'd recommend this one, even if it doesn't sound on the surface like something you'd be into.
But don't just listen to me. Here's the blurb:A darkly comic high-school drama about brotherhood, body image, concussions, and toxic masculinity from Boston Globe–bestselling adult author of That Book About Harvard.
Wyatt has wanted nothing more than to play football on Grayport's championship-winning team. But not for the fame, glory, or girls. It's his last chance to build a relationship with his older brother Brett, the star quarterback, before he leaves for college. Now that their team has gained national attention, a big win could be just what the small town needs in order to rebound from a fishing season that has been devastated by Red Tide. But when Brett suffers a terrible concussion, Wyatt must decide if keeping his brother's secret is worth risking his scholarship future.
Told with irreverent humor reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen, and a stark honesty about brotherhood and masculinity for fans of Andrew Smith, Gut Check explores the struggle of grappling with uncomfortable truths.