Backfield Boys: A Football Mystery in Black and White by John Feinstein

Backfield Boys: A Football Mystery in Black and White

Sportswriting powerhouse John Feinstein's young adult novel Backfield Boys follows best friends and football stars Jason Roddin and Tom Jefferson, a perfect, though unconventional, pair: Jason, the Jewish kid, is lightning fast and a natural wide-receiver, while African-American Tom has an amazing arm and a quarterback's feel for the game. After summer football camp at an...

Title:Backfield Boys: A Football Mystery in Black and White
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0374305927
Number of Pages:368 pages

Backfield Boys: A Football Mystery in Black and White Reviews

  • Ms. Yingling

    E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

    Tom and Jason are fairly happy in their public school in New York City, but they are both phenomenal football players and spend a summer at a football camp. Afterwards, they are offered positions at the prestigious sports prep academy in Virginia. Even though their mothers are less than thrilled about them playing football at all, they are offered scholarships that make the very expensive school seem worth the risk. Right away, things get uncomfortable. The

    E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

    Tom and Jason are fairly happy in their public school in New York City, but they are both phenomenal football players and spend a summer at a football camp. Afterwards, they are offered positions at the prestigious sports prep academy in Virginia. Even though their mothers are less than thrilled about them playing football at all, they are offered scholarships that make the very expensive school seem worth the risk. Right away, things get uncomfortable. The boys expect to room together, but are separated. They are assigned positions that they don't normally play. When they ask about these things, the coaches are very put out and make it clear that they are not to be contradicted. Jason is Jewish and Tom is black, and the boys soon start to pick up on subtle and not-so-subtle incidents of racism in the school. Jason's roommate, a self-proclaimed "good ol' boy" named Billy Bob is from Alabama and does not share these prejudices, but he has spent more time in the South and understands how things work. When the boys realize that there has never been a black quarterback, and roommates are assigned along racial lines, they contact sports writers and start an investigation, especially into the most offensive coach as well as Gatch, the founder of the school, who has alarming ties to people whose track record on race is horrendous. Can the boys come up with concrete proof that things are not being done properly at their school?

    Strengths: Feinstein does a great job of writing for older middle grade readers as well as high school ones. I appreciated that he set this in a high school and dealt with serious issues without resorting to bad language or behavior. Tom and Jason are both very appealing characters, and the inclusion of sports reporters is a great example of "writing what you know"! This was reminiscent of Paul Volponi's titles like Black and White or John Ed Bradley's Call Me By My Name, and is a welcome addition to books about football that have some more serious themes.

    Weaknesses: Referencing Trump will date this one, and it is immeasurably sad to think that this level of institutionalized racism might still exist in the US, but that's why it's an important book.

    What I really think: This is an essential purchase for middle school and high school libraries. Also, I will never live South of the Ohio River. Just won't.

  • Lisa Brennan

    Fueled by on-the-field action, Backfield Boys delivers a fast-paced story that triangulates sports, mystery and racial injustice in a perfect voice for Middle School readers. Tom and Jason, best friends, have grown up in NYC as an unstoppable duo of Quarterback and Wide-Receiver. Both receive scholarships to play at a prestigious boarding school in Virginia. Upon arrival, neither is assigned to the position for which he was recruited, and both boys are "stonewalled" when they raise questions. Si

    Fueled by on-the-field action, Backfield Boys delivers a fast-paced story that triangulates sports, mystery and racial injustice in a perfect voice for Middle School readers. Tom and Jason, best friends, have grown up in NYC as an unstoppable duo of Quarterback and Wide-Receiver. Both receive scholarships to play at a prestigious boarding school in Virginia. Upon arrival, neither is assigned to the position for which he was recruited, and both boys are "stonewalled" when they raise questions. Signs and symptoms of racism rise to the surface with each passing day, and when professional reporters get involved, a covert operation ensues. Backfield Boys is a story of courage, perseverance and friendship. While it will raise teen awareness of social injustice, it also relies upon stereotypes to unfold its own story. Middle grade readers may find it tough to view Virginia or other southern states in an objective light after enveloping themselves in undeniably realistic work of fiction. ARC copy via Netgalley ~ Lisa Brennan, Middle School Librarian @noveltalk

  • Sarah

    I received this as an ARC at BEA.

    Jason is a stellar wide receiver, who is also white and Jewish. His best friend, Tom, is a stellar quarterback, who is also black. The only thing that really mattered between these two was how well they played football together. They have dreams of playing professionally together. To work toward this dream, the two attend a prestigious athletic school, TGP. Once at the school, the two quickly notice something rotten. The coaches have switched the positions Jason

    I received this as an ARC at BEA.

    Jason is a stellar wide receiver, who is also white and Jewish. His best friend, Tom, is a stellar quarterback, who is also black. The only thing that really mattered between these two was how well they played football together. They have dreams of playing professionally together. To work toward this dream, the two attend a prestigious athletic school, TGP. Once at the school, the two quickly notice something rotten. The coaches have switched the positions Jason and Tom play, the best friends are not allowed to room together, and a mean undercurrent runs beneath the school administration's facade. Jason and Tom fight to expose the racist underbelly of this school, with help from some of their new friends and local journalists.

    While most of the football talk went completely over my head, I totally get why the teen guys at my library are obsessed with Feinstein's books. The mystery element quickly pushes readers along. The characters are real and relatable. This novel did not have any questionable elements like sex or swearing, which makes it easier for me to put this book into younger hands. The story was well developed and is a novel I will certainly recommend.

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