Book Review: Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee is another Friends of the Library book sale find. I probably picked it up because the main character is Koreanand completely ignored the football uniform. There’s a lot of football in here is what I’m saying. Basically, Chan’s parents move him and his sister Young to Minnesota from L.A. to take over their uncle’s store. There’s no soccer team so Chan joins the football team and encounters some violent racism under the guise of “necessary roughness.”

Necessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee

What I Liked

  • There’s some really good family stuff here, especially with Young and Chan’s dad and his brother and how that affects his relationship with Chan.
  • Chan frequently acts as a translator for his father, but his father expects him to be quiet and respectful at the same time.
  • I especially like that O-Ma is not to be slept on. She constantly comes through in surprising ways. She gets things done is what I’m saying. She’s probably my favorite.
  • As is Mrs. K, their neighbor. She and O-Ma have a great relationship.
  • Young and Chan are both good kids, so the conflict doesn’t come from rebelling against their parents but just from them trying to figure out their new town and how they fit in.
  • One of my favorite parts is Chan trying to find someone–anyone–of color he can relate to. And finding that in this particular town, that’s not an option. That is so real, especially when you go from a place with a lot of people of color to a lily-white town. It is jarring and weird and also means trying to recreate that feeling of home as best you can.

What I Didn’t Like

  • FOOTBALL FOOTBALL FOOTBALL. Listen, there’s a lot of football in this book, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it’s important to the main character, so he would talk about it a lot. But I find that the focus on drills and stuff in books only works if it’s to explore other stuff like relationships between characters.
  • There are a lot of dropped threads plot threads here: Young and Chan’s uncle, the bullying incidents, the money issues.
  • There are a lot of rushed and not satisfactorily resolved endings as well: the bullying incident, the money issues, Chan’s relationship with a girl, and the actual ending.
  • I really wanted more from this book: more character and plot development and more of a sense of the school beyond football–especially for Young. Even though the story isn’t told from her point of view, I don’t really get a sense of what her experience at the school is.
  • The tagline on the book is “Sometimes offense is the only defense.” Yeah, that wasn’t realized in the book at all.

In conclusion: This book had a promising start but left me wanting more. Reluctant readers who like sports might go for it, though.

It’s Monday & I read a bunch of YA from the last century

This past week, I read:

A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a SandwichA Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich by Alice Childress
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a little hard to get into because the first chapter is told in dialect, and I was tired when I started it. It’s told in alternating POVs by everyone affected by Benjie’s drug use and offers some interesting perspectives on family, race, and economic equality.

It’s a slim volume but took me longer than I expected to read–probably because it took me a little while to figure out.

That ending is killer, for sure. Worth it just for that.

(I also wrote a full-length review of this on the blog. You can read it here.)

 

Sweet SixteenSweet Sixteen by Linda A. Cooney
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars, rounding down

I liked that this was actually more about the girls’ relationships with their families and each other than anything else–even though the cover and back of the book description led me to believe otherwise. The beginning was a little slow and the emphasis on sixteen was a little weird, but this was firmly grounded in reality and the summer romance was more of a summer friendship, which is a thing I dig. Slice of life, man. It works for me.

 

The Boy Who Drank Too MuchThe Boy Who Drank Too Much by Shep Greene
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The title of this should really be “The Friend of the Boy Who Drank Too Much. Also: Hockey” or possibly “How to Tell If You’re the Friend of the Boy Who Drinks Too Much Who Is Your Hockey Teammate.” Too much?

This was fine but I will probably forget that I read it. Julie was cool, though.

 

Now That I KnowNow That I Know by Norma Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel the same way about this book that I did about Tiger Eyes. Super authentic and relatable, and I wish more current YA were written this way.

 

 

 

Necessary RoughnessNecessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Football, football, football, football. There is a lot of football in this book. Just…a lot. So there’s that.

I will say, though, that Lee gets the shock of moving from a multi-ethnic big city to a small lily-white town in the Midwest pretty right. I agree with other reviewers that the ending was rushed, but I did like the family stuff and most especially all of the stuff with O-Ma and Mrs. K. Those ladies are the best.

View all my reviews

 

As of today, I’m reading:

Aristotle & Dante

I’m still listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (and read by Lin-Manuel Miranda). That Dante kid is pretty great, huh?

 

The Obnoxious Jerks by Stephen Manes

As I mentioned before, I’m moving this summer and am therefore trying to read all of the (unread) books on my shelf to see what’s making the move with me. One of those books is The Obnoxious Jerks by Stephen Manes. I actually read this many, many years ago when I was a kid but remember absolutely nothing about it except the cover. So we’ll see how that goes.

 

Hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.
Hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Happy reading, everyone!