While there is a lot in the media about the dangers associated with brain injury and football right now, it is a lot harder to make that lesson palatable for the audience who most benefits from the knowledge. Hit Count may be a little bit of hiding the vegetables, but it is genuinely full of engaging sports action that I think many high school guys will enjoy. This isn’t Tim Green and his middle school heroes. This is a big boy book that offers an engaging and unique perspective on what it means to love a dangerous sport. It is currently free for kindle readers.
“I hit him so hard, the clash of helmets and pads sounded like a gunshot across the field. I crushed him with the hit, held on to him, and crushed him again when I slammed him into the ground . . . I had arrived.”
Arlo Brodie loves being at the heart of the action on the football field, getting hit hard and hitting back harder. That’s where he belongs, leading his team to championships, becoming “Starlo” on his way to the top. Arlo’s dad cheers him on, but his mother quotes head injury statistics and refuses to watch games. Arlo’s girlfriend tries to make him see how dangerously he’s playing; when that doesn’t work, she calls time out on their relationship. Even Arlo’s coaches begin to track his hit count, ready to pull him off the field when he nears the limit. But Arlo’s not worried about tallying collisions. The winning plays, the cheering crowds, and the adrenaline rush are enough to convince Arlo that everything is OK—in spite of the pain, the pounding, the dizziness, and the confusion.
Hit Count explores America’s love affair with football and our attempts to reconcile the clear evidence of its dangers with our passion for the game.
Hit Count follows Arlo throughout his high school football career and it was pretty interesting to see the evolution. Arlo is a pretty smart guy, but the high he gets from the game robs him of a lot of his judgement. Subplots about Arlo’s clearly disturbed older brother (he was freaky ominous) and friendship in the face of ego gave depth to the story. I particularly liked Arlo’s relationship with his girlfriend. It seemed like a genuine affection, and it wasn’t all about what she could do for him. I don’t know if I’ve seen a relationship like this before from a guy’s perspective, and while it is just a small part of the book, it was engaging and a positive example of love. While there is a clear lesson about the danger involved in contact sports and head injuries, it isn’t pedantic. I think the approach means my students will be drawn in by the action, but they will hang around long enough to benefit from the themes. While I thought this was a surprisingly strong book for the genre, I did have a few problems. I didn’t like the ending, though it was satisfactory enough. I also struggled with the humor, which was sometimes laced with enough malice that I wasn’t sure it was humor. My husband, the football coach, feels that some of the drama of the team dynamic was exaggerated, but hey, there is no fight club, right? Language, drugs, alcohol, but no sensuality.
Get in on the game now – this book is in our classroom library because even my tightwad husband can’t complain about buying a football book!
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.