Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood is in a coma fighting for his life after an unspecified football injury at training camp. His family and friends flock to his bedside to support his recovery—and to discuss the events leading up to the tragic accident. Was this an inevitable result of playing a violent sport, or was something more sinister happening on the field that day?
Told in an innovative, multimedia format combining dialogue, texts, newspaper articles, transcripts, an online forum, and Teddy’s inner thoughts, Game Changer explores the joyous thrills and terrifying risks of America’s most popular sport.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language
Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. Freshman football player Teddy Youngblood, 13, is seriously injured during a practice session before the upcoming football season. Teddy’s family, friends, and neighbors are distraught about it—it may be Teddy’s favorite sport, but it just put him into a coma. Soon, rumors begin circulating around town that Teddy’s accident was not an accident; rather, there is something suspicious afoot. Worried, Teddy’s family and friends clamor to find the truth behind the accident. Greenwald’s latest takes a fresh approach, telling the story through multiple characters and an almost free-verse style that combines inner thoughts, texts, social media feeds, newspaper articles, interview transcripts, and dialogue. Example: “Can you squeeze my hand? / Oh man / Oh man that’s perfect / Great job, Ted / Look at that.” The format presents no barrier for readers, who will rapidly adapt. Reminiscent of Mike Lupica’s Lone Stars (2017), Greenwald’s novel entertains while exposing readers to the potential risks and consequences inherent in the sport of football. Overall, a strong entry into Greenwald’s bibliography and an interesting, innovative read.
Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
A young athlete lies in a coma while his family and community try to determine the cause of his injury. Thirteen-year-old Teddy Youngblood collapsed following an intense football practice. At first, the focus is on his injury and the concerns of his family and friends for his recovery. Counselors are brought in to help them with the trauma. The coach’s daughter, Camille, makes a social media page to encourage positive thoughts, but some of the posters hint that something other than a tough hit at practice caused his injury. The doctors encourage family and friends to talk to Teddy, and readers learn much through these comments. Teddy’s family is at odds. His mother, who lives apart, did not want her son to play football, while his dad supported his sports involvement. Also interspersed are Teddy’s thoughts as he lies in the hospital: “This is what life is / Life is football / Football is life.” This nontraditional narrative, using conversations, interview transcripts, text messages, hospital reports, and other documents, skillfully peels back the elements of the mystery. The issues of football’s violence are presented, but the book’s real strength is the depiction of the culture behind it. There are few descriptions to indicate the ethnic makeup of the characters (Teddy’s eyes are described as blue), implying the white default. The story will resonate with those on both sides of the debate about the role of youth football in society, and the unusual storytelling technique sets it apart from most sport fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)
About the Author
Tommy Greenwald is the author of the Crimebiters! series, about a group of friends and a (possibly) superhero crime-fighting vampire dog, and the Charlie Joe Jackson books, a middle-grade series about the most reluctant reader ever born.
Tommy is also the Co-Founder of Spotco Advertising, a theatrical and entertainment advertising agency in New York City, and the lyricist and co-bookwriter (with Andrew Lippa) of JOHN & JEN, a 1995 musical which was revived off-Broadway in 2015.
His website is tommygreenwald.com/
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