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. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.Review by School Library Journal Reviews
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 Copyright 2021 School Library Journal.
"High school seniors Julian Jackson and Elijah Vance reconnect on the football field after three years apart, learning to both trust and love each other again"--Review by Publisher Summary 2
An emotional YA romance about small town secrets, high school football, and broken hearts.Julian Jackson has a short to-do list for his senior year at Crenshaw County High School in Meridien, Texas: football, football, and more football. He knows he's only got one chance to earn a college scholarship and make it out of his small town, and keeping his head down, his grades up, and his cleats on the field is that one chance. And then Elijah Vance walks back into his life, throwing all of his carefully-laid plans into a tailspin.Elijah and Julian used to be best friends, maybe even on their way to something more than just friends. But three years ago, Elijah broke into the school to steal money from the coach's office, and Julian was the one who turned him in. After that, Elijah and his family disappeared without a trace. And now he's back, sitting at Julian's grandmother's kitchen table. But time and distance haven't erased all of their feelings, and Elijah knows that he finally has a chance to prove to Julian that he's not the same person he was three years ago. But with secrets still growing between them and an uncertain future barreling towards them, it may be harder to lean on each other than they thought.