My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read this book in a day. I spent the afternoon of Mothers Day totally wrapped up in the world of Noah and Ben, the central characters in this novel. Both boys are at the top of their footy game, playing on opposing teams in the local comp. Noah Davis lives with his parents and older brother, Chris, in the town of Marshall, where he plays for the Mavericks. Ben Meredith, who plays for the Kookaburras, lives with his father and younger sister.
After a racism-fuelled incident on the footy field where Ben tries to stop his racist team-mate, Mark Elliott, from beating up Noah, tensions are high. Out for a training run after the match, Ben happens upon Noah and the two boys begin to do training runs together. Slowly a friendship develops.
Ben’s openly racist father tells him to stay away from Noah because “their type” is trouble, but Ben does not think like his father and finds himself disillusioned by his Dad’s behaviour. Noah is going through a tough time due to his grandmother, a much-loved matriarch, being ill with pneumonia in a neighbouring town.
Throw into the mix a scout from the Bushrangers development squad and his interest in both boys for a spot, and things look set to explode. When Ben transfers from the Kookaburras to the Mavericks after being ostracised and bullied by his team-mates, the scene is set for a re-match of epic proportions. Will either boy get the coveted Bushrangers letter? Will either of them make it off the field in one piece?
I loved the easy language of this novel. The way these boys talk to one another is the way I hear my son’s team talk on the footy field. The grass-roots feel is palpable and it is easy to believe how seriously the small town treats it’s footy. I particularly enjoyed the character of Ms Gillmartin, the school librarian who is a die-hard footy tragic and the maths teacher, Mr Garner, who are both supportive of the boys in their own way. I also really liked footy being used as a metaphor for conduct of life – acceptance, tolerance, working hard, celebrating achievement, friendship and loyalty. I am pretty sure the boys aged 13 and up at my school will love it, but there is plenty for girls here too. Because whilst footy is the backdrop for this story, its central concern is family and relationships and Hyde does it really well.
For ages 13 and up.