Friday, August 29, 2014

Always a Catch: By Peter Richmond



Jack and his father have never seen eye to eye…until Jack’s dad gives him the chance to transfer to Oakhurst his junior year. His dad sees it as a way for Jack to get into a good college; Jack sees it as refuge from his dad.

Oakhurst is more than an escape—it's a chance for Jack to do something new, to try out for the football team. Once Jack makes the team, he’s thrust into a foreign world—one of intense hazing, vitamin supplements, monkey hormones and steroids. Jack has to decide how far he's willing to go to fit in—and how much he's willing to compromise himself to be the man his team wants him to be.


I thoroughly enjoyed each of the activities that Jack participated in. Richmond does a great job describing the adrenaline pumping excitement of playing football, or the smooth perfection of finally getting a song right as the pieces just fall into place. Reader’s own heart rates will escalate during these scenes, forcing them dig deeper into the story and want more.

Besides the football games and the band practices, Richmond does a great job showing the struggles of resisting peer pressure. Whether that peer pressure be: accepting the school’s traditions in terms of music and learning, accepting the popular pretty girl’s (and quarterback’s girlfriend) propositions, or giving in and taking steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. Richmond describes all of these struggles as they really are, Jack is ostracized from the team for not taking the drugs, he commits social suicide by rejecting Lancy’s offers, and he risks getting expelled for defying the normal types of music.

Of course, this leads to one of the problems of the story. While Richmond does a good job describing each of these struggles, the book sometimes feels a bit clunky with all of the different themes shoved into this short book (280 pages). A result of stuffing to many plotlines into the story is that the characters are not as well developed as they could be. Because there are so many different characters because of the different activities Richmond doesn’t spend the necessary amount of time developing any of them, resulting in the love story aspect of the novel appearing weak and unnecessary. While it would require losing one or more of the themes, I believe strengthening the characters and showing character growth (instead of the two-dimensional characters Always a Catch currently has) would transform Always a Catch into a better book.

That said, Always a Catch is a fun book to read. Richmond does a great job creating riveting action sequences playing football and making music, and the pace is swift and steady, leading readers to keep reading until the end. All in all a good book for fans of Mike Lupica or John Feinstein.


Publisher: Philomel

Published: September 4, 2014

Price: $17.99

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