Read-alikes: Hazing—the Game Nobody Wins.
Kraus, Daniel (author).
FEATURE. First published September 1, 2014 (Booklist).
Eric Devine’s Press Play is the newest from an author whose characters often fight from the fringe. Though Devine’s books frequently center upon sports, this is the first to focus squarely on hazing, which makes it the latest addition to a strong list of YA novels on the topic. These books are gutsy, gritty, bloody, and often shocking—but so is the crime of hazing.
Freefall. By Ariela Anhalt. 2010. Harcourt, $17 (9780152065676). Gr. 10–12.
Sure, it’s an uppity boarding school (the jocks here are fencers), but that doesn’t mean that all is cozy. Luke’s best buddy, Hayden, has always been the reckless top dog, but then a new hotshot arrives and steals his thunder. Soon after, the new kid is pushed from a cliff to his death by Hayden—either a hazing ritual gone wrong or a flat-out murder. With credibly written turmoil, Luke, the sole witness, is left to sort through his feelings and admit to himself the truth of what he saw.
If You’re Reading This. By Trent Reedy. 2014. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9780545433426). Gr. 7–10.
Seven years after his dad died in Afghanistan, Mike begins receiving letters from him, delivered by an anonymous member of Dad’s former unit. These missives encourage Mike to embrace the glory days of high school, and so he tries, until a bully on the football teams begins to haze him. This is a literary, nuanced, respectful treatment of a number of complicated themes, from sports dynamics to the military, many of which hinge upon secrets that, should they surface, would have ramifications for everyone.
Inexcusable. By Chris Lynch. 2005. Atheneum, $16.95 (9781416939726). Gr. 10–12.
It could be argued that Lynch’s landmark book, told from the point of view of an accused rapist, is a foundational text of these sorts of books: fueled by adrenaline, morally inconclusive, and offering more questions than answers. Keir, a most unreliable narrator, is trying to defend himself against the accusation. But to the reader, it feels like the culmination of a long string of overaggression, which stretches back to a football-team hazing incident caught on tape. An unnerving study of how permissiveness of violence can spread ever outward.
Leverage. By Joshua C. Cohen. 2011. Dutton, $16.99 (9780689847899). Gr. 10–12.
Cohen’s stunning debut focuses on Danny, a star on the gymnastics team but a pipsqueak as far as the hormone-pumped, college-scouted footballers are concerned. A competition erupts between the two squads, leading to a horrifying instance of hazing dealt out to one of Danny’s teammates. Told from the alternating perspectives of Danny and Kurt, a quiet new fullback, this is a rich, disturbing tale of being trapped inside expectations and forced to continue the established order—or pay the price.
Press Play. By Eric Devine. 2014. Running Press. $9.95 (9780762455126). Gr. 9–12.
Greg Dunsmore is 16, but here’s the more relevant number: 352. That’s his weight, which over the years has earned him the nickname Dun the Ton, but not a whole lot of friends. Fortunately, the one pal he has, Quinn, is a fitness fanatic and has begun to train Greg every day after school. It’s during a workout that they stumble upon the horrible hazing rituals of the championship lacrosse team, everything from stick beatings to being force-fed feces. A tough, smart look at weight issues, self-respect, and our intrinsic desire to belong at all costs.
Rookie. By Lorna Schultz Nicholson. 2012. Lorimer, paper, $9.95 (9781459400245 ). Gr. 10–12.
Aaron may be small, but his speed, drive, and wits have earned him a place on the hockey team at an elite academy. There, however, he falls victim to a grueling hazing incident involving sexual assault. In the aftermath, his world is thrown off balance, and he chooses not to report it—until a second attack lands him in the hospital. This may be a short novel aimed at reluctant readers, but Aaron’s tortured decisions, none of which are tidy, contribute to the complicated, agonized feel.