Gold Star Award Winner!
If I was asked to write a one word review for POP by Gordon Korman, I would write - Fantastic! Once readers start passing this one around, it may never touch a bookshelf again.
Quarterback want-to-be Marcus Jordan is packed up and moved to the mountains of New York state by his divorced mother. It's no big loss in the dad department considering he refers to his father as Comrade Stalin. He knows he and his mother are better off out of Kansas and on their own, but it's the summer before his junior year, and his dream of playing varsity quarterback may not survive the move.
With no friends yet to occupy his time and definitely no fellow football companions to work out with, Marcus heads to the local city park to create his own workout. He is attempting some passing practice when a burly, middle-aged guy shows up and sprints into the park and picks off one of his passes. Before he knows it, the guy is putting him through his paces. They are passing the ball like crazy and then running patterns and hitting each other like it's the biggest game of the season. And then the guy is gone.
Marcus learns the man's name is Charlie. Without any regular schedule or plan, they start working out together in the park. Charlie just sort of shows up - maybe one day, but not the next, and rarely ever at the same time. Even with crazy and unreliable appearances, the time Marcus spends with Charlie is really improving his game.
Whenever Marcus tries to find out exactly who Charlie is, he runs into a roadblock. Their time together is basically all about football - until the day a wild pass ends up crashing through the side window of a car parked along the street. Charlie disappears faster than Marcus believed possible, leaving him to write a note to the car owner promising to pay the repair bill. After that more strange things begin to happen. Marcus notices that when he and Charlie leave the park to grab a Gatorade or a bag of ice to ice down an injury, Charlie simply grabs what they need from a local store and leaves without paying a cent. Weird... but the weirdness is outweighed by the fantastic football knowledge Marcus is gaining from this awesome athlete.
As school starts that fall, Marcus finds it difficult to fit into the already stacked football roster. The team has a super reputation and is heading into a second undefeated season. There seems to be no hope that he will play quarterback. In his attempt to make friends and fit in with the team, Marcus learns that Charlie is the father of the team's star quarterback. It makes sense that such a great player would have a talented son, but Marcus also discovers that there is some sort of family secret and Charlie seems to be at the center of it.
Gordon Korman is at his best in POP. He has wrapped a tremendous amount into this fast-paced novel. In addition to football action, readers will experience Marcus's "new guy" frustration, emotions twisted by his parents' divorce, and the discovery of a horribly debilitating disease. Readers will find it difficult to stop reading once they have met Marcus and Charlie.
Run, don't walk, to the nearest library or bookstore to get a copy of POP.
Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"