Thursday, January 21, 2016

Post Reading: Leverage - Joshua C. Cohen


ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Leverage
Author: Joshua C. Cohen 
Published: 1 February 2011 by Dutton Children's Books
Source: eBook Bought
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The football field is a battlefield

There's an extraordinary price for victory at Oregrove High. It is paid on - and off - the football field. And it claims its victims without mercy - including the most innocent bystanders. 

When a violent, steroid-infused, ever-escalating prank war has devastating consequences, an unlikely friendship between a talented but emotionally damaged fullback and a promising gymnast might hold the key to a school's salvation.

Told in alternating voices and with unapologetic truth, Leverage illuminates the fierce loyalty, flawed justice, and hard-won optimism of two young athletes.
THE REVIEW

One of the biggest misconceptions of anabolic steroid usage is that it is solely used by athletes as a performance enhancing drug.

But in fact, half of the users of steroids aren't even athletes. These “mirror athletes” use steroids in order to achieve an ideal” body. This practice roots from prevalent adolescent body image issues that are often perpetuated by misguided internalized messages in pop culture. Often, boys are obsessed with bulking up in order to fit in with what they see as societal ideals.

An astounding 57% of teenagers admit that they felt compelled to take the drugs what with leading health” magazines constantly featuring ripped guys.

The percentage of teen athletes who do not receive any education about what the side effects of steroids: 85%

The percentage of high school boys who admit to having tried steroids at least once: 11%

Joshua C. Cohen's Leverage is a mature Young Adult novel that focuses on an issue that is often ignored - Steroid usage among adolescents. But Leverage goes above and beyond your average sports fiction novel.

Social hierarchies in school, dismissal of male victims of rape, bullying, substance abuse, abuse of the power and authority, speech disorder - No stone is left unturned. It's an incredibly hard book to read but also hopeful in its own way. Narrated in distinctive dual POVs of a gymnast and a football player, Leverage is a homage to beautiful friendships found in unlikely places.

Danny the gymnast who is working his ass off towards a scholarship. Kurtis the football player with a speech disorder who is unstoppable on the field. On the outside it looks like the two boys have absolutely nothing in common, but as the story unfolds you see that perhaps they aren't so different from each other. However, the gymnastic and football teams are embroiled in a rivalry of sorts with each side trying to take down the other. What begins as a series of prank soon escalates to a horrific and twisted event.

Cohen's writing is best described as a a series of unrelenting no-holds-barred punches that leave you gasping for air. A chilling yet undeniably realistic high school atmosphere sets the background for the atrocities that happened within those walls. Leverage was at times intensely graphic, so much so that I had to put down the book a couple of time and take a breather. Perhaps, Cohen's brutal honesty and raw dialogue are the very things that set this novel apart from the rest. 

An unconventional novel with an unlikely hero, Leverage is a celebration of ambition and hard work. It's a story of two boys who fight against all the odds to make something of themselves. 

Danny and Kurt find unlikely friends in each other but their worlds are soon turned upside down by a sick and depraved attack. An attack that is witnessed by both of them. Bound together by guilt, this incident becomes a defining point in their lives. As the story progresses, Danny makes some questionable choices but I could see that they were coming from a place of insecurity, self preservation and fear. Kurt on the other hand has been dealt some of the most fucked up cards in life. With everything he's been through, this boy tugs at your heartstrings and you can't help but love him just a little. The voices of these teenage boys felt completely authentic and watching them grow from boys to men was heartwarming. 

Leverage evokes a multitude of questions, all of which are equally important. It explores the lines of morality that separates silent bystanders from criminals. Does failing to speak up make you criminal as well? 

It speaks of setting aside our own fears and concerns for self preservation in the face of senseless brutality. It speaks of courage and the fight for justice. It speaks of empathy and our own flawed sense of humanity. It speaks of standing up for what's right even when it means going against everything you've been taught.

My only qualm with this novel was that I found one particular aspect of the ending to be unrealistic. Leverage is not for the faint-hearted but if you are looking for a YA novel unlike any other do yourself a favor and go read this one, you'll thank me later.

* Many thanks to my beloved friend, Savindi for the recommendation: Check out her review of Leverage!

THE RATING

4 and half Stars

QUOTE-WORTHY
“Being a hero usually isn't much fun. It's terrifying, most of the time, right up until the point you make it out safe. It's being scared to do the right thing and doing it anyway.” “On any given day you have the chance to be a hero or a victim, predator or prey. Most times, circumstances are beyond your control. Other times, you got a choice but you think about it too much and you freeze up. Sometime, though, you're forced to react and it's all instinct. May not make a damn bit of difference in a bad situation. But sometimes instinct squeezes the good out of you, forces you to be a hero before you even realize it.”   
“I've got a better idea,"she says. "One that doesn't involve murder.""What makes you think you can outsmart them?""Uh, I'm a girl and they're boys,"she says. "By default, I win.”
FINAL VERDICT:

Leverage is a breathtakingly eloquent and brilliant novel that's part hope and part cold truth. Give this debut a chance and you can rave about it later.
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OVER TO YOU:
Have you read  Joshua C. Cohen's Leverage? Have you read any YA books that discuss performance enhancing drugs? 




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