In case you’ve been living under a rock, the XXX Summer Olympics (yes, this is how it’s displayed in my satellite company’s directory, which amuses me to no end) started this weekend. In celebration of this two weeks of sports (I love sports, y’all), I thought I’d round up some recommended young adult reads with sports themes.
Hopefully, there’s a little something for everyone on this list, so whatever your taste, you can find a satisfying sports-themed read. (I’m thinking I’ll do a non-fiction roundup soon, too, since I love quality sports non-fiction.)
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Okay, okay… I know American football isn’t an Olympic sport, but stay with me. This is one of Laura’s favorites, and it’s honest and funny and unique. It’s also a great sports book for people who avoid sports, because it’s about more than just sports. (Fun fact: When I asked Laura if she was planning on reading the sequel, Nothing Special, she refused on the grounds that Stupid Fast was so perfect, she didn’t want it ruined by a sequel.)
The Ex Games by Jennifer Echols
I’ve commented before that one of the reasons I enjoy Jennifer Echols’ YA romances is because her characters actually do stuff, they have things in their lives that are meaningful. In the case of the delightful comedic novel, The Ex Games, that’s snowboarding (yes, yes, I realize that we’re in the summer Olympics and snowboarding is a winter sport). This one is so laugh-out-loud funny that it’ll make you forget the dorky cartoon cover.
Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge
I adore this charming and funny novel in verse, and love the sequel, Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs, to absolute bits. (For the record, I also think this is a novel in verse that a lot of verse-averse folks will like, since it’s not the free verse style that so many people seem to find frustrating—these books are very structured.) I’ve been meaning to review these novels for awhile now, and I promise I will eventually—but they’re highly recommended for folks of all ages who appreciate themes of growing up and family dynamics.
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
This is a lovely novel about a teen who loses her leg in a car accident and has to learn to live her life on a prosthetic leg. The main character is an avid runner, so the news that she will walk again is of little comfort. This is a story about friendship and family as much as it is about sports, but it also shows how sports often isn’t just about sports, you know?
Boy 21 by Matthew Quick
Basketball is probably my favorite sport (though we’re in a bit of a fight right now, to be honest), but there are surprisingly few good novels about basketball. (There are actually a lot of fantastic non-fiction works about basketball, I mentioned those on The Postscript Podcast awhile back.) This is another example of a novel that addresses the reality for many people that sports isn’t all about The Sport, if you know what I mean—it’s about community and friendship and self-worth and a whole bunch of other stuff. The Sport is the vehicle. (Yes, this is why I get so worked up with people make comments about sports being “stupid” or “pointless,” because they’re not at all stupid or pointless for a lot of people, both participants and spectators and I think it’s pretty jerky to invalid people’s relationship with sports off-hand like that.) Also: the absolute stunningness (yes, I just made this word up) of this cover thrills me to no end.
The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
This is the story of a 14-year old boy in1935 Berlin who begins training at The Berlin Boxing Club under his hero, boxer Max Schemling. The main character is Jewish, so as Hitler’s power grows, the world changes for him dramatically. There is a lot wrapped up in this novel, ranging from identity to the backdrop of history and sporting dreams. Something I haven’t seen mentioned a lot about The Berlin Boxing Club is that there is also quite about related to early comics/cartoons—which I think is pretty interesting, since this was the era when that medium really started to take off.
The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain by Cath Crowley
I really hate recommending books that are hard to acquire for a lot of people, but The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain is worth it. Australian author Cath Crowley’s debut is a Bend it Like Beckham meets Ruby Oliver novel, that I loved. Unlike a lot of girls who play sports books, this is really about sports—about being on a team, competition, the ups and downs of athletic success. It’s quite briliant and funny and is told in the alternating point-of-view that typifies Crowley’s writing. I will admit that the second book in this series really frustrated me, so I’ve been holding off on reading the third, which I’m told makes the second book totally worth it. (The only way to acquire this book outside of Australia is through Fishpond World.)