Review by Booklist Review
After an absence of 3 years, 17-year-old Elijah and his family are moving back to their hometown of Meridian, Texas. Elijah goes three weeks before the rest of his family and is staying with Miss Birdie and her golden-boy grandson, Julian--captain of the football team. Elijah's stay doesn't make either boy happy, since they have a history. When they were 14, they kissed; the next day Elijah rejected Julian, and soon thereafter Elijah moved without saying goodbye. Now, both openly gay, the two teens are barely speaking, and Julian becomes furious when Elijah is selected to be on the football team with him. In the meantime, Julian is solely responsible for dealing with the tradition of pranking their archrival, Taylor High School--a tradition Julian, as a matter of conscience, wants to end. Will the two boys reconcile? And what about that tradition? Bietz has done a good job of plotting and developing characters within a Texas-football framework, making this a nice option for readers looking for sports stories with depth or LGBTQ+ themes.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--Julian, a high school senior in Meridien, Texas, has been growing into his role as captain of the football team, and thinks planning the annual prank against the school's rival will be the hardest part of his senior year. But things get complicated when his former friend and fellow football player, Elijah, shows up at his house and Julian's grandmother informs him that Elijah will be staying with them until his family moves back to town in a few weeks. Julian is full of questions about a kiss he and Elijah shared three years ago and wonders why Elijah left Meridien afterward without saying goodbye. Chapters alternate between the two characters' perspectives, exploring small-town secrets, high school traditions, and the pressure of living up to other people's expectations. Julian and Elijah are cued as white. Julian's best friend, Camille, has "curly hair" and is Latinx. While the book creates a vivid picture of football culture in a small town, the narration lacks believability, with teen characters using expressions like "good gravy," "purloined," and "tighter than a tick." VERDICT It is exciting to see more books featuring queer love stories, especially ones that take place in Texas, but an uneven execution and the availability of exceptional LGBTQIA+ options make this a secondary purchase.--Emily Yates, Green Hope H.S., Cary, NC
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Two star football players--estranged childhood friends with a complicated past--set, hut, hike their way into their last year of high school with a high-stakes homecoming game in sight down the yard line. All eyes in football-obsessed Meridien, Texas, are watching quarterback Julian Jackson and his long-lost teammate Elijah Vance, a once-promising defensive player. Until three years ago the two were inseparable, but then Elijah and his family moved away without explanation or saying goodbye. Now that he's returned, unresolved feelings are stirred up between them as the biggest game of the season against their archrival approaches. This sports romance includes all the pageantry of small-town Texas with none of the homophobia. When it comes to their sexuality, both main characters experience nothing but love and support from their community, including their local pastor and his husband. Instead, the tension focuses on their families' intertwined histories, perceptions of teen pregnancy, and the pressure of upholding the tradition of a local prank war with the rival football team. Contextual cues describing secondary and background characters indicate some ethnic diversity, but gender representation remains binary. Written in first-person, the chapters alternate between the perspectives of Elijah and Julian, both of whom are presumed White. Will-they, won't-they suspense accelerates the story's momentum, but the rushed pace of the resolution will leave readers yearning for a few more chapters. An engrossing drama with an abrupt conclusion. (Fiction. 14-17) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.