Review by Booklist Review
Robbie Oakes wasn't the greatest quarterback---or, as cheerleader Amber McCloud knows, the greatest human--but when he died in a car accident, most of the teammates, like much of their Florida town, were quick to canonize him. As Amber enters junior year, she focuses on making cheer captain next season by fake-dating a closeted boy on the football team and hiding her own interest in girls. When the football coach recruits a new QB, all hell breaks loose: Jack Walsh is a girl. The fact that she's good seems to add insult to injury, and both the team and the squad refuse to accept her. But while Amber's future rests on making cheer captain, she can't stop noticing Jack--who's noticing her right back. In Amber and Jack's alternating perspectives, Adler (Cool for the Summer, 2021) weighs the intensity of a first love that arrives unexpectedly against the expectations of a community and the big dreams, however improbable, of youth. Readers hungry for more sapphic love stories will give this fully fleshed sports-centric romance full marks.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Bubbly cheerleader Amber McCloud falls for star quarterback Jaclyn "Jack" Walsh in Adler's (Cool for the Summer) winning queer take on the classic meet-cute. Sixteen-year-old white Amber only wants two things: to become captain of her cheer squad and to stay in the closet. Well on her way to accomplishing the first, she keeps any potential outing at bay by fake-dating gay, also-closeted classmate Miguel Santiago, who is Cuban American. Newcomer Jack, 16 and white, just wants to play football; Jack's excited about her appointment as Atherton High's newest quarterback, until the team realizes she's a girl and conspires to make her life miserable. As front-runner for cheer captain, Amber is expected to help her peers drive Jack out and uphold tradition in their small, South Florida school. But as Amber and Jack grow closer, Amber must decide if maintaining the status quo is worth giving up the opportunity to be her authentic self. Alternating between Amber and Jack's perspectives, this insightful and thought-provoking story astutely addresses the anti-queer attitude of the teens' community while empathically highlighting the painstaking efforts queer youth may make to "fit in" while denying their true selves. Ages 13--up. Agent: Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary. (June)■
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Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 10 Up--Nothing can stand in Amber McCloud's way as she works toward becoming cheer captain; nothing, that is, except for an intriguing new quarterback named Jack Walsh. And when Jack turns out to be short for Jaclyn, things are even more complicated for the queer but closeted Amber, who finds herself attracted to Jack. Jack is struggling to find acceptance with her new teammates, who seem determined to hate her for replacing their previous quarterback. Jack and Amber must work together to unify everyone while facing bigotry and defining their romantic interest in one another. This is a well-written story with solid pacing, believable characters, and relatable issues. Discussion of LGBTQIA+ identity is realistic and appropriately handled, as is how the characters deal with and confront homophobia and misogyny. The evolution of lifelong friendships is sensitively explored, as is the expression of identity in a repressed setting. Lead characters are white, with some secondary characters who are Black and Latinx. There is proliferate use of curse words throughout, including gender- and sexual-based name-calling; while the use of profanity is realistic for the teen experience, the constant usage distracts from the plot. Also present is appropriate representation of and discussion of teen experiences relating to sexuality, including abortion. VERDICT A recommended purchase for all school or public libraries catering to older teens.--Christine Case
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A cheerleader-meets-quarterback story, with a twist. Pretty, peppy, and popular, junior Amber McCloud is poised to be the next cheer captain at her high school in the Florida Panhandle. All she needs to do is keep her sexuality under wraps. Meanwhile, on the football team, talented new player Jack Walsh is ready to take the Atherton Alligators to the next level. Or, she would be, if the team and the town could swallow their sexism and accept Jack (short for Jaclyn) as the QB. Against a nostalgic--yet truthfully brutal--tapestry of archetypal American teendom, the two find their way into each other's pockets and under one another's skin. Adler keeps the pages turning with well-mapped tension and compelling characters, using clichés to her advantage as she builds an appealing and heartfelt romance. Sweet as the bones of the story are, it's the dark flashes of underbelly that keep it moving. As QB, Jack attempts to fill the mythically enlarged shoes of a not-so-nice boy who died while driving drunk. Cara, one of Amber's best friends, is the daughter of a fire-and-brimstone preacher, and the specter of bigotry is never far from the story's consciousness. Both Jack and Amber are White, while a deep bench of secondary characters includes Miguel, Amber's Cuban American gay best friend--cum--fake boyfriend, and the school's first Black cheer captain, Crystal. Bubbly but not naïve: a worthy rendition of a classic high school story. (Romance. 13-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.