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.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Marijuana, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Underage smoking
Kirkus Reviews starred (June 15, 2019)
Readers don’t have to like football in order to love this book. Wyatt couldn’t be more different from his older brother, Brett, the quarterback and football hero of a Massachusetts town struggling with a collapsing fishing industry and a red algae bloom. Their father embodies the luckless town’s obsession with the only consistently positive facet of life: high school football. Feeling anything but cool, Wyatt describes his own large physique in unflattering terms and is on the receiving end of most of his alcoholic father’s verbal abuse and neglect. As he struggles to align an accidental sports success with a secret his brother implores him to keep, Wyatt can’t decide whom to disappoint. In his brilliant debut, Kester links a litany of teenage woes with the yearning to escape a dying town and a dead-end life. Recognizable characters, locker room language, and guy humor accompany thorny ethical dilemmas. Buoyed by self-deprecating wit and rare insight, Wyatt endures the humiliations of fat shaming, taunting, bullying, and being the odd man out in a family of three males. The storyline plays both offense and defense with perfection while all-star resilience and a plucky best friend save our hero from a Gordian knot of a problem. Can the hero of a sports story be an overweight, ignored, nonathletic team mascot plucked from obscurity to land in the limelight? You bet! All characters are white. A winner. (Fiction. 14-18)
School Library Journal (August 1, 2019)
Gr 8 Up-In the fishing town of Grayport, only two things matter: having a blue-collar sense of toughness, and football. Which is why making the team is so important to Wyatt Parker. That, and it’s his only chance to bond with his brother Brett, the star quarterback. When Brett suffers a concussion during a game, he begs Wyatt not to tell and ruin his chance to play in a televised game against Grayport’s rival team. It’s the only chance the team has to win and help the town recover from a resurgence of red tide. Wyatt struggles with the impossible conundrum of deciding what’s more important: saving his brother from a potentially irreversible injury or saving Grayport from even more hardship. Tough topics such as body image, poverty, and bravery are treated with equal parts humor and sincerity. Wyatt’s self-deprecating wit is used as a shield from a seemingly distant older brother, an alcoholic father, and a football team fueled by toxic masculinity. The author deftly paints a clear picture of Grayport as a worn-down coastal town, which creates a perfect backdrop for the story. The football stadium itself is set on a rocky bluff overlooking the ocean and Wyatt describes hearing the ocean waves crash against a stone embankment “like a communal heartbeat…defiant and surviving despite it all.” VERDICT Even though the conflict resolution seems a bit pat, Kester’s debut novel will strike a chord with teens. Give to fans of Mike Lupica or Carl Hiassen.-Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Akron-Summit County Public Library, OH
About the Author
Eric Kester was born in Boston and attended Harvard University, where he wrote a column for the undergraduate newspaper, The Crimson. Now a featured writer for CollegeHumor.com, Eric has also contributed to the Boston Globe, someEcards.com, and Dorkly.com. His writing has been described as a perfect blend of Twain, Salinger, and Sedaris from critics such as his mom. He lives in Boston with his two sons, XBOX and PlayStation.
His website is erickester.com.
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