Review by New York Times Review
A SMALL town in Maine is flooded with Somali refugees looking for a better way of life. The soccer team gets a jolt of inspiration and outstanding play from its new, non-English-speaking players. They might just have a chance to beat their archrivals! At least, so says Tom Bouchard, the handsome, nice-guy team captain and narrator. Getting in the way are Tom's nasty, dimwitted girlfriend Cherisse, his hapless bad-boy friend Donnie, and prejudices and culture clashes on both sides. Maria Padian, the author of two previous young adult novels ("Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best" and "Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress"), offers plenty of story in "Out of Nowhere": romantic rivalries, class tensions, family pressures. She has a firm sense of plot, and the circumstances her characters grapple with - cyberbullying, the burden of a burnout friend, the pain of growing and changing - will resonate with young readers. Padian is trying a broader canvas here than in her previous work, grappling not just with people but also with their larger cultures, but, alas, with mixed results. One can't help rooting for her attempt to show us the wider world. Yet the constant stream of explanation drags down the narrative at the expense of both character and forward momentum. This cultural responsibility is hardest on those characters who represent an ideology. There is the conservative Uncle Paul: "People who were born and raised in this town are on waiting lists for housing, while these folks show up by the busloads." And the Uberai Aunt Maddie: "These people have fled war zones, Paul. Where is your compassion?" Though these characterizations are leavened by contrary details - Paul turns out to have some compassion after all; Maddie watches "Survivor" - they are not enough to bring them to life. Other characters, like Saeed, the Somali soccer prodigy at the novel's center, never fully emerge. Instead, we end up with a vague sense that he is, you know, good. "He wasn't able to give you a straight story about where he'd come from, but this new customer? He was all right," Tom tells us. These difficulties are compounded by another formidable obstacle: Tom himself. Third in his class, a star athlete, beloved by the ladies, Tom is the antithesis of the usual teenage outsider narrator. Which is an appealing idea. It's not often readers get to hear from a smart, athletic, funny guy. The problem is that he, too, remains somewhat indistinct. First, there is the voice itself: sometimes it comes across as intelligent and witty, other times close to dim. From the beginning, Tom sounds like something other than a real person: "I was stuck, O.K.? I'll man up to that. We were playing Maquoit High School." First of all, who says, "I'll man up to that"? And to hear a teenager say of his soccer team, "We were playing Maquoit High School," raises the question: Does he use the full name of everything? This authorial inclination to explain and clarify ends up obscuring the characters. It's hard to get worked up about skinheads invading the town when we have to pause for: "Ramadan, however, is a whole different deal. It's based on the Islamic calendar, which is about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, which, B.T.W., is our calendar, which means that every year Ramadan begins 11 days earlier than the year before. I got that off Wikipedia." This may all be true. It may even be interesting. But when you're stopping your narrative to quote Wikipedia, you are not giving your story wings. It's frustrating, because there is a real story here. Over the course of the novel, Tom's voice emerges and becomes more assured. But the people involved in his life never really become clear. Padian's previous novels demonstrated a real confidence in the smaller story and an ease with the emotions we humans are prey to. I wish she had trusted her characters here to bring their histories and cultures along with them, rather than the other way around. Third in his class, star athlete, ladies' man: Tom is the antithesis of the usual teenage outsider narrator. Marcia Lerner, who writes the blog The Diamond in the Window, is working on a novel, "Loopholes."
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [February 3, 2013]
Review by Booklist Review
Grades, sports, and girls have always come easy to me, muses Tom Bouchard, captain of his high-school soccer team. What happens when, out of nowhere, a phenomenally talented soccer player named Saeed joins the team? Quite a lot, actually. Saeed is part of a new community of Somali immigrants who have arrived in Tom's small Maine hometown and created quite a stir. Not everyone welcomes them, and though Tom and Saeed become friends, there are those who would like to see Saeed removed from the team. Meanwhile, Tom has fallen for a slightly older girl who is a volunteer at the neighborhood center where he is performing community service. The two befriend Saeed's sister, and when Tom performs an ill-conceived gesture of sympathy, the futures of both Saeed and his sister are put in jeopardy. Padian has written a sensitive, sympathetic, and insightful portrayal of the plight of new immigrants attempting to acculturate while being forced to deal with casual bigotry. A timely and thought-provoking examination of a continuing dynamic in American communities.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
The influx of Somali refugees into a small Maine town proves eye-opening for senior soccer captain Tom Bouchard. Between the language barriers and unfamiliar Muslim traditions and customs, this "secondary migration" has brought tension, uneasiness, and confusion to his high school and community. Meanwhile, Tom's friend Donnie persuades him to deface a wealthy rival soccer team's property; when caught, Tom is sentenced to community service: tutoring Somalis. There, he develops a crush on a college girl and receives an education about Somali culture, which gives him a new perspective on both his history and his future. Padian (Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best) impressively handles many plot threads at once: Tom befriends Somali soccer player Saeed, questions his loyalty to Donnie and his relationship with his girlfriend, and frets over the approaching state soccer tournament. The author gracefully explores the intersections between culture and religion, as well as suspicion and prejudice in a post-9/11 world. Her well-formed characters and realistic circumstances make for a large and powerful story about re-evaluating one's beliefs. Ages 12-up. Agent: Edite Kroll, Edite Kroll Literary Agency. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up-Tom Bouchard's small Maine hometown has become a key secondary migration location for Somali immigrants, and the local high school is overwhelmed with helping these students adjust to their new surroundings. As captain of the soccer team, Tom follows his instincts and recruits a Somali player, cashing in on Saeed's talents and unique playing style. In the wake of a racially charged incident on their home turf, the team goes on to beat their crosstown rival, sparking racist reactions both from the opposition and local authorities. To classify Out of Nowhere as a sports story sells it short. Soccer is certainly an element, with a fair amount of play-by-play action (and standard locker-room language), but the novel is rich and multidimensional, addressing the Muslim experience in America, addiction, and romance. Tom is an authentic narrator who deals out life-changing empathy.-Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
As captain of his Maine high school's soccer team, Tom's focused on defeating their rival school. But the controversy surrounding his town's Somali refugees--some of whom are on the team--forces Tom to confront some larger, harsh realities. Told through Tom's genial voice, this coming-of-age novel unflinchingly tackles issues of class, prejudice, and religion, culminating in a bittersweet, community-affirming ending. (c) Copyright 2013. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
When Somali refugees move to his Maine town, a soccer captain matures in this Chris Crutcherreminiscent drama based on a true event. High school senior Tom Bouchard is comfortable in the middle. He's uncomfortable with both his racist, working-class uncle and his anti-racist, college-educated aunt. He likes the Somali kids on his soccer team but doesn't mind that his hot girlfriend is a bigot. As more and more immigrants populate Enniston, rising tensions force Tom to pick sides. Richer towns, alarmed at the amazing soccer players among Enniston's Somali immigrants, challenge the eligibility of star player Saeed. The concerns of locals--ranging from outright racism to worries about an infrastructure collapsing under the influx of English language learners--lead to taunts, fights and worse. Highlighting this tension (with an unexpected subtlety, compared to Tom's tendency to explain facts about Somalia he learned on Wikipedia) are the French last names of almost all of Enniston's white residents, grandchildren of Qubecois once beaten in school for speaking French. Tom is a complex enough character to carry the heavy weight of racism, classism, sexism, culture shock and Islamophobia that comprise his story, with a believably encouraging coming-of-age. Still, the Somalis are here for Tom's education--as Tom's father says to him, "aren't you lucky? Knowing all these stories"--not for their own sake. Pair this novel with one from an immigrant's viewpoint, such as Marina Budhos' Tell Us We're Home (2010). An encouraging, if incomplete, tale of high school sports in the melting pot. (Fiction. 13-16)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.