Mick Johnson is determined not to make the same mistakes his father, a failed football hero, made. But after being tackled just short of the end zone in a big game, Mick begins using "gym candy," or steroids. His performances become record-breaking, but the side effects are terrible: Mick suffers 'roid rage, depression, and body acne. Gym Candy's subject matter is just as hard-hitting as its football scenes. You'll find yourself unable to look away as Mick goes down a road that even he knows is the wrong one to travel.
Gr 7-10-Deuker tackles high school steroid use with his usual spot-on characterizations, exciting game-play descriptions, and an entirely credible depiction of one athlete's decision to use illegal substances to become bigger, faster, and stronger. Mick's earliest memories are of playing football with his dad, once a high school/college star running back and third-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers, but now a radio sidekick in Seattle. Learning the truth about his father's career-that he was a football bad boy who squandered his talent-motivates Mick to work harder than ever. He earns his place on the varsity as an incoming freshman but comes up short on the big play of the final game that season. Initially rejecting the offer of steroids from his personal trainer at the gym, Mick is eventually convinced to give it a shot, injecting XTR during the next season and becoming a touchdown-scoring machine. Deuker realistically portrays the paranoia, acne, and emotional roller-coaster that are side effects of steroid use and the constant pressure to win that drives some athletes to succumb to illegal drugs. The climax involving gun violence and the importance of friends who can back you up eerily parallels Robert Lipsyte's Raiders Night (HarperCollins, 2006), although minus that book's sexualized swagger; this one is pitched for a younger audience. The disturbing and powerful denouement will leave readers uncertain whether, even after having undergone residential substance-abuse counseling, Mick will be able to stay off the "juice."-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
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September 21, 2008
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