Penalty Kick by Terence O'Leary

Release Date - May 2014

Terence O'Leary

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I read and loved John Green's A Fault in Our Stars. I think part of me was expecting something along those lines. Yet, that's not really a fair estimation as Penalty Kick came out sounding like it was for a slightly younger crowd.

Brooke Avery is 16, able to drive herself places, and is just finishing rounds of chemo. Her hair loss led to her nickname of Hat Girl at school. She had surgery that caused her to lose some function in her leg and left her with horrible scars. However, her oncologist has just told her that her bloodwork looks good and he's guardedly optimistic that she's in remission.

Josh Connelly is a star soccer player for his school. He's 15, about to go for his license, and has a great family. All of that changes when he talks his mom into letting him drive home. The sun temporarily blinds him, he pulls out into the path of an oncoming car, and his mom is killed in the accident.

Both of these teens are facing some of the hardest events imaginable. They're both "freaks" in the school setting and soon forge a friendship where they can be honest about their feelings. It's a short read, one that builds up the characters well, but not being a sports fan, the scenes involving all of the soccer games and the very descriptive detail were lost on me. I simply don't care enough about soccer to get drawn into the game.

I had a friend in school who died from a brain tumor. Granted I was younger than 15/16, but I found myself thinking how much like Brooke she was with the positive attitude. As this is a book based on true events, I think the author did a good job building Brooke's character.

Josh's dad, well I wanted to smack him upside the head during some of the book. If you went back to the very first details before the accident, his mom was checking her cell phone rather than watching what Josh was doing. While the relationship between Josh and his father changed drastically, I kept thinking that had she done what every parent/teen driving manual says and watched everything her son did, the accident might well have been avoided in the first place. That I could see that and no one else in the book seemed to, that bugged me a bit. That Josh's younger sister seemed to be more reasonable than the father was a little tragic.

In the end, Penalty Kick is a good read. I don't think it's one I'd put on my keeper shelf because of my issues with Josh's dad, but it's a gentler look at tragedy and rising above it.


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