quotes Elisquared likes

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green



Title: Like Other Girls
Authors(s): Britta Lundin
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook; 384 pgs
SourceRockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Kindle - B&N - BAM! - iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule

Week One
8/1/2021  - 2 Teen Book Reviews - Review
8/2/2021 - BookHounds YA - Excerpt
8/3/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
8/4/2021 - Kait Plus Books - Excerpt
8/5/2021 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
8/6/2021 - onemused - Review
8/7/2021 - booksaremagictoo - Review

Week Two
8/8/2021 - EveryonesLibrarian - Review
8/9/2021 - @curlygrannylovestoread - Review
8/11/2021 - A Bookish Dream - Review
8/12/2021 - Nonbinary Knight Reads - Review
8/14/2021 - Fyrekatz Blog - Review

Week Three
8/15/2021 - @coffeebooksandmascara - Review
8/16/2021 - Midnightbooklover - IG Post
8/17/2021 - A Gingerly Review - Excerpt/IG post
8/18/2021 - The Bookwyrm's Den - Review
8/19/2021 - @drewsim12 - Review
8/20/2021 - Adrianna.reads - Review
8/21/2021 - Mallory Books - Review

Week Four
8/22/2021 - GivernyReads - Review
8/23/2021 - popthebutterfly - Review
8/24/2021 - @pagesofyellow - Review
8/25/2021 - My Fictional Oasis - Review
8/26/2021 - Perusewithcoffee - Review
8/27/2021 - The Phantom Paragrapher - Review
8/28/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review

Week Five
8/29/2021 - @fictitious.fox - Review
8/30/2021 - Bibliosini - Review
8/31/2021 - Two Points of Interest - Review

The Summary

"What if I played football?" I ask. As soon as it's out of my mouth, I feel stupid. Even suggesting it feels like I've overstepped some kind of invisible line we've all agreed not to discuss. We don't talk about how Mara is different from other girls. We don't talk about how Mara is gay but no one says so. But when I do stuff like this, I worry it gets harder for us all to ignore what's right in front of us. I direct my gaze to Quinn. "What do you think?"

"I think it's frickin' genius," he says.

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara's political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara's lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can't throw, can't kick, and doesn't know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara's crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara's nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara's preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

Britta Lundin's sophomore novel will give readers all the feels, and make them stand up and cheer.
My Review

All Mara Deeble wants to do is get back on the girls basketball team.  Unfortunately, due to her outburst last season on the court, that chance is looking slim.  But her coach is willing to give her one last chance, if Mara can prove that she is capable of playing on a team sport in the fall before basketball season starts.  Mara is willing to do anything to get back on the team, anything that is besides playing volleyball.

But all Coach Joyce said was a team sport.  So Mara decides she's going to join her brother, Noah, and her best friend, Quinn, on the football team.  But with Mara trying out for the team, four other girls go to try out as well, including Carly (Mara's annoying ex-teammate), and Valentina (Mara's crush).  But with the other girls comes a spotlight and conversation on gender and gender equality that Mara isn't ready to have.  All Mara wants to do is play football, but can she do only that when faced with the misogyny and discrimination on her own team.

First things first, I adored this book.  Britta Lundin crafted a captivating main character.  You can't help but like Mara and feel for her through all the ups and downs she experiences.  She is a girl figuring out who she is in a community where anyone outside the norm is typically judged.  As a young woman contending with religious parents, a close-minded small town, and her own sexuality, Mara doesn't fit 100% in either the feminine realm or the masculine realm.  She doesn't know how to relate to other girls her age, ones who wear dresses and care about makeup or hair, and then the boys see her as an interloper, especially when the four other girls join the team.

What I really liked is that Mara is given space to not be perfect.  Crafting an authentic voice is sometimes hard; but Mara really rings true.  She is aggressive and has a temper. But with that temper comes passion and drive.  She judges the other girls, while she struggles to be judged for her talents, not her gender.  Mara goes through some very rocky relationship dynamics, realizing that people she may have know her entire life do not truly see her.  

And the backdrop of it all is the rough and tumble sport of football.  A character all on its own, the way the scrimmages and games are incorporated is never overbearing.  Each part has a purpose and is explained beautifully in relationship to Mara's fight off the field.  I believe that even non-sports fans would enjoy this book because football is being utilized as a vehicle for many different aspects of the story.

Overall, Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin is a tough and tender read.  A coming of age story that doesn't just focus on one aspect of a young woman's life, but on the multifaceted person she truly is.  Quick and fast-paced, but still full of nuance (ooh and a little romance), I believe this is a must-read, especially coming into football season!  Pick up a copy now, wherever books are sold, or check out the giveaway below for a chance to win a finished copy.

Final Rating


Last Winter

WHEN MY EYES OPEN AGAIN, IT’S TO THE SIGHT OF MY teammates’ worried faces looking down at me. I couldn’t speak even if I wanted to, which I don’t. I want to sprint down the court, throw an elbow into the Hixon point guard’s face, then sink a three over her outstretched fingers.

It’s not the dirty shoulder check that bothers me, it’s not that the useless refs apparently didn’t see it. It’s not even that I hit my head so hard on the floor that bright sparks fly across my vision and pain ricochets around my brain. What bothers me is the look on everyone’s faces, like I’m some fragile tchotchke on their grandmother’s shelf that shatters if you look at it sideways. I’m fine.

“Okay, Mara, shake it off!” Coach Joyce chirps peppily.

Shaking it off isn’t going to win this game. I need to make Hixon pay. I check the clock, the stars trailing my eyeline. Three minutes left. My balance lags a second behind my body as I get to my feet. Coach Joyce calls a time out.

“How you doing?” Coach asks me in the huddle.

“Fine,” I say. “Let’s do this.” But I can feel Carly Nakata’s eyes on me like she’s going deer hunting and I’m the doe. As if I don’t have enough problems.

Coach pulls out her whiteboard to talk strategy as Carly whis­pers to me, “Are you seeing stars?”

“No,” I snap, even as the arrows on Coach’s whiteboard swim, crossing and uncrossing. Not that it matters. I don’t need a dia­gram to know she’s telling me to attack. I glance over my shoulder at the point guard, who’s sucking down water on her sideline. I have five inches on her and three fouls left. She messed with the wrong player. Dark spots form on the edges of my vision. I blink them away.

“You’re not focusing,” Carly says.

“Because you’re talking to me,” I growl.

“No, your eyes—”

“Mara, Carly,” Coach says. “I need your attention.” And now I’m pissed Carly’s getting me in trouble, on top of everything.

“Coach, I think Mara has a concussion,” Carly says, and right then, I could scream.

“I said I’m fine,” I tell Carly through gritted teeth. After I take out the point guard, maybe I need to come after Carly next.

“Look at her eyes,” Carly insists, and Coach does. I try to look as unconcussed as possible, whatever that means. Bright-eyed, I guess, alert. No one’s taking me out of this game. Not this deep in the season. Not when it’s tied up.

I don’t know what Coach sees, but she jerks her head toward the bench. “Sit it out,” she tells me.

“Are you kidding?” The ref blows her whistle. Time out’s over. I have to get back on the court. I’m not letting that point guard just get away with this.

“Take a seat, Mara.”

“Coach, there’s three minutes left.”

But Coach walks away, turning her focus back to the players still in this game. The Hixon point guard catches my eye as she jogs back onto the court and smirks. My temperature spikes. It’s like she’s in some conspiracy with Carly to keep me out of the game for the final seconds. A dirty hit I can handle, but what took me out at the knees was my own damn teammate. I turn, searching, and see Carly refilling her water bottle at the cooler.

I’m only dimly aware of the game resuming, the squeak of shoes on the glossy boards, the grunts and breathing of my teammates as they search for a chink in the armor of an evenly matched team that they won’t find. The only way to win this game is grit and effort, and I can’t give that because Carly decided to play doctor. Whose team is she on? I could have won this for us. At least, I could have helped. And instead, I’m standing here with nothing to do but watch the seconds tick down, while Carly’s biggest concern is apparently staying hydrated.

“Hey,” I say, and she turns, her cap halfway on her water bottle.

It goes flying when I hit her. I was aiming for the kidneys, but she’s so much shorter than me, I basically hit her in the boob. She staggers backward, her water bottle falling, glugging water onto the floor. Her foot catches on the leg of the water table and she loses her balance, falling into it. I have to hop back to avoid the cooler falling with a crash, the top popping off, water flowing onto the court. A whistle blows and the game stops. The crowd quiets. Finally, the stars clear from my vision as I look around and see everyone’s eyes on me.

Carly sort of grunts and grasps her boob. I look at Coach, and her eyes hold a fury I’ve never seen before.


“You’re outta here,” she says, voice thick with anger, pointing to the locker room.



And that’s how I get thrown off the basketball team.

About the Author

Britta Lundin is a TV writer and author. She’s written for shows such as Riverdale, Betty, and The Big Leap and is the author of the young adult novels Like Other Girls (out August 2021) and Ship It. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she lives with her wife, kid, and dog in Los Angeles.

3 winners will receive a finished copy of LIKE OTHER GIRLS, US Only.




Title: The Plentiful Darkness
Authors(s): Heather Kassner
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, eBook; 256 pgs
PublisherHenry Holt and Co. (BYR)
SourceRockstar Book Tours
PurchaseAmazon - Kindle - B&N - BAM! - iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule

Week One
8/2/2021 - BookBriefs - Excerpt
8/3/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
8/4/2021 - Nerdophiles - Review
8/5/2021 - Polish And Paperbacks - Review
8/6/2021 - Books and Zebras @jypsylynn - Review

Week Two
8/9/2021 - The Momma Spot - Review
8/10/2021 - Do You Dog-ear? - Review
8/11/2021 - The Bookwyrm's Den - Review
8/12/2021 - celiamcmahonreads - Review
8/13/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review

The Summary

In Heather Kassner's spine-chilling fantasy novel, reminiscent of Serafina and the Black Cloak, an orphaned girl chases a thieving boy into a magician's land of starless, moonless gloom where other children have gone missing before her.

In order to survive on her own, twelve-year-old Rooney de Barra collects precious moonlight, which she draws from the evening sky with her (very rare and most magical) lunar mirror. All the while she tries to avoid the rival roughhouse boys, and yet another, more terrifying danger: the dreaded thing that's been disappearing children in the night.

When Trick Aidan, the worst of the roughhouse boys, steals her lunar mirror, Rooney will do whatever it takes to get it back. Even if it means leaping into a pool of darkness after it swallows Trick and her mirror. Or braving the Plentiful Darkness, a bewitching world devoid of sky and stars. Or begrudgingly teaming up with Trick to confront the magician and unravel the magic that has trapped Warybone's children.

Praise for The Plentiful Darkness:

"Though the darkness is indeed plentiful, this book gleams with an eerie magic, its characters burning bright and fierce. A visual treat of a tale." --Stefan Bachmann, international bestselling author of Cinders and Sparrows.

"For readers who love the creepiness of Coraline . . . Lyrical narration weaves a tale that’s both haunting and comforting." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Kassner’s latest is deliciously on-brand, with inventive magic, lyrical writing, and that just-right creep factor." —Kirkus

"Readers who enjoy Adam Gidwitz’s Grimm series will enjoy this title too." —School Library Journal
My Review

The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kassner is the perfect Fall read!  A delicious mix of creepy and fantastical, this book will give you shivers.  Which, if you've read any of Kassner's other books, is on brand.

Readers follow Rooney De Barra, one the many orphans in the town of Warybone, who is on her own after the death of her parents.  She, along with The Montys (what she calls the gaggle of rats living on the streets with the orphans), go seeking moonlight, which can be used as currency in her town.  And while she has to compete with the roughhouse boys, she has a secret weapon: her magical mirror.  Due to its rarity it is coveted, not only by the roughhouse boys, but by a witch terrorizing Warybone each night.  One can guess that doesn't bode well for Rooney.

What Kessner does so well in this book, as well as her others, is craft a beautiful, slightly off-kilter world.  I also love the world-building her in books, and this one is no exception.  Warybone is its own character, and the perfect counterpoint to the Plentiful Darkness (think a toned down Upside Down vibe).  On top of the world-building, Kessner has a lyrical hand with her prose, and there are just sentences that sing on the pages.  Put it together with our intrepid heroine, and there's a story that will captivate the entire time.

Younger readers may get scared, but for the older tweens this is the perfect witching hour book (but let's not stay up until the witching hour).  Readers can grab a copy of The Plentiful Darkness by Heather Kessner wherever books are sold.  Or check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a finished copy.

Final Rating




A Few Hours Earlier

Stardust was trickier to catch than moonlight. In fact, Rooney de Barra had never caught a speck of it. It danced far out of reach, little gems in the evening sky that taunted her with their bright sparkling.

Even on overcast nights like this one, they glittered through the gray.

Standing in the darkened alleyway, Rooney ran a thumb over the round metal case in her hand—the exact size of her small palm. A thorny stem was etched on the lid, and she cracked it open. It might have looked like a chainless pocket watch, but nestled within lay a very special mirror.

A lunar mirror.

Some said these rare mirrors were made from the moon itself, tiny slivers of the dead rock fallen to Earth. Rooney thought that notion silly, because she knew the truth.

Magic touched the glass.

Oh, it was a most extraordinary mirror. The silvery surface rippled like the sea, then settled smooth and shiny once again. She tucked her dark hair behind her ears and tipped her face over the glass. Her freckled white cheeks, her arrowed eyebrows, and her bark-brown eyes left no reflection.

The only face the mirror would reveal was that of the moon.

Rooney polished the glass with the frayed sleeve of her coat, checking for nicks or scratches, removing fingerprints and thumb smudges. When she was through, the mirror shone.

Its reflected light exposed the blackened bricks of the buildings to each side of her, the grime-coated windows, and the mold stuck in the cracks. Rooney wrinkled her nose and inched away from the walls so she stood in the very center of the alleyway.

A thread of silver fell between the old buildings and glanced upon her cheek. She took one step back, and another half step, lifting her right arm and holding it steady with the left. Quite precisely, she angled the mirror toward the sky. It reflected the dark clouds above and sieved a smidgen of moonlight, which spiraled down through the air, wispy and blue.

Rooney held very still so the mirror would not tilt. One little twitch might spill the light instead of capture it, and she needed every last drop.

A breeze swept by, scampering through the alley and swooping up, up, up into the sky. Rooney kept her feet firmly planted. Her raised arm never wavered. But the clouds shifted when pushed, and the moon disappeared behind them.

She frowned, turning the mirror this way and that, but it did no good. The moonbeams could no longer reach her.

And of course, the stardust only teased her, a glimmer beyond the fog.

Rooney closed the mirror and tucked it into the pocket of her long coat. With a huff, she stalked down the alleyway. It was undoubtedly the worst place to catch moonlight, but it was the one place in Warybone she felt safest.

Yes, it was dark. (Very.) Yes, it was crooked and foul and dank. (Very, very, very.) But it was quiet too. A hushed space that Rooney had all to herself.

Or mostly.

The rats gathered here too. Thick furred and long tailed, they skittered through the shadows, unbothered and right at home. No one troubled them in the alley. No one shrieked or kicked them out of the way like the gents and ladies and roughhouse boys did in the cobbled streets. All those hard-knuckled boys scared of getting bitten, while Rooney slept beside the little beasts without suffering a single scratch or nibble.

In unspoken agreement, the Montys—which was what she called the rats, a collective name for all of them, as she could hardly tell one hairy creature from another—behaved quite politely, and she offered them the same courtesy.

She could not say the same for the roughhouse boys. She’d rumbled with them a time or two. They were all bruises and teeth.

Rooney watched for them now (the boys, not the rats) as she emerged from the alleyway and hesitated on the darkened street. At each corner, lamps glowed blue in the misty air, moonlit sparks wavering behind the glass, and within each house, moonlit flames leaped in the hearths, for when moonlight touched wood or wick, it warmed, and when it touched metal or glass, it cooled.

It was much safer than the outdated use of fire or gas, which could as easily warm a house as burn it to the ground. Spilled moonlight would only glimmer harmlessly before it eventually faded away.

She cast a look over her shoulder. Usually the boys made enough noise in their coming that she heard them before she saw them, but it was still wise to be cautious.

Her boots fell softly on the street as she crept forward. One of the Montys followed her the length of a block and then another, keeping close to her ankles. It was a skinny thing (like Rooney herself) with a scruffy black coat and a splotch of white on its nose.

Rooney glanced up at the sky. She licked her finger and held it out in front of her, trying to gauge which way the wind would carry the clouds. That-a-way (she did not know north from south), she guessed, and turned left down Cider Street.

Best to stay on the busier avenues as long as she could, where the laughter and music from the taverns spilled out into the night. (At this hour, there were still more smiles than fists.)

The Monty continued to follow her. It must have felt safe in her shadow, hoping she’d spare a crumb. One it wouldn’t have to fight over with its sharp-toothed brothers and sisters.

“I’ve got nothing for you, I’m afraid.” Her stomach grumbled. “And nothing for me, unless I gather a mirror-full of moonlight to trade for my supper.”

It was probably only a shadow falling across its snout, but the rat seemed to frown.

“As though you could do any better in weather like this,” she scoffed, then sighed. “If only I could figure out how to capture stardust, I’d never go hungry again.”

If moonlight gleamed like glass, starlight would glitter like diamonds.

And like diamonds, it would be worth so much more.

Both forms of light could be cut and shaped into sparkling necklaces and delicate rings; into golden or silver-blue thread, ribbon, and rope; into glinting ever-lit chandeliers. But whereas moonlight was fleeting, starlight was forever.

At least, that’s what all the stories whispered in the streets of Warybone told.

Rooney wasn’t sure about all that, but gathering a twinkling from the stars above would prove a thing or two to those roughhouse boys. That she was as good as them.

That she was better than them. For they’d never caught a bit of starlight either. They would beg her to show them how she’d done it.

“One day,” she muttered.

Rooney kicked a stone in her path and stuffed her hands into her pockets. Thistle Hill stood in the distance. The highest point in all of Warybone, it was the perfect place for catching moonlight, but it was also the spot the roughhouse boys had claimed as their own.

She would just have to avoid them as best she could.

The Monty followed her up the narrowed street, its little claws scratching over the stones. Rooney’s eyes flicked to the Tower of Thistle, rising dark and straight into the night. The roof shimmered.

“Do you think the stories are true? That starlight sturdies the tower?” The rat made no reply and only slipped closer to her heels. “Well, I think it’s true. Come on.”

The hill inclined slowly, with cottages sitting crooked on its slope. Where the land was too rocky or the hill too steep, blackberry bushes grew untamed, and in these open spaces Rooney felt most wary.

Maybe the Monty did too. It skittered away, as if something had scared it off. Rooney froze. A tap-tap-tapping pelted the cobblestones. She looked all around, ready to dart off after the rat.

Then a scraping sound split the night. Rooney trembled.

After all, these days there were even worse things on the streets than the roughhouse boys.

Copyright © 2021 by Heather Kassner

About the Author

Heather Kassner loves thunderstorms, hummingbirds, and books. She lives with her husband in Arizona, waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the rain, photographing hummingbirds, and reading and writing strange little stories. She is also the author The Forest of Stars and The Bone Garden.

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE PLENTIFUL DARKNESS, US Only.




Title: Dangerous Play
Authors(s): Emma Kress
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook; 352 pgs
PublisherRoaring Brook Press
Source: Rockstar Book Tours
Purchase: Amazon - Kindle - Audible - B&N - BAM! - iBooks - Kobo - TBD - Bookshop.org
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.  Please note the purchase links above are affiliate links.

Tour Schedule

Week One
8/3/2021 - YABooksCentral - Interview
8/4/2021 - Rajiv's Reviews - Review
8/5/2021 - Everyone's Librarian - Review
8/6/2021 - @Curlygrannylovestoread - Review
8/7/2021 - celiamcmahonreads - Review

Week Two
8/8/2021 - booksaremagictoo - Review
8/9/2021 - Books and Zebras @jypsylynn - Review
8/10/2021 - onemused - Review
8/11/2021 - Nonbinary Knight Reads - Review
8/12/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review

The Summary

A fierce team of girls takes back the night in this propulsive, electrifying, and high-stakes YA debut from Emma Kress

Zoe Alamandar has one goal: win the State Field Hockey Championships and earn a scholarship that will get her the hell out of Central New York. She and her co-captain Ava Cervantes have assembled a fierce team of dedicated girls who will work hard and play by the rules.

But after Zoe is sexually assaulted at a party, she finds a new goal: make sure no girl feels unsafe again. Zoe and her teammates decide to stop playing by the rules and take justice into their own hands. Soon, their suburban town has a team of superheroes meting out punishments, but one night of vigilantism may cost Zoe her team, the championship, her scholarship, and her future.

Perfect for fans who loved the female friendships of Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie and the bite of Courtney Summer’s Sadie
My Review

Right out the gate, this book pulls you in.  Emma Kress crafts an unflinching, full-bodied, emotional story of agency: over one's body, over one's safety, and over one's future.  With the high impact sport of field hockey as a vehicle to bind this group of girls together, the reader will find not just one character, but multiple characters to connect to while exploring some of the very tough, but very real, situations within the pages of Dangerous Play.

I am not a big sports fan; I don't tend to watch sports and I only participated in the required gym activities.  But I was instantly enamored with this focused and deadly (on-the-field) group of field hockey girls.  Zoe is our narrator, the co-captain of the team, along with Ava.  Together through the summer they tagged specific girls, including Zoe's best friend Liv and one of the "outsiders" of the school, Dylan, to train up in order to obtain one goal: win States.  For the co-captains, and Zoe in particular, this win would set them on the path to win scholarships for college.  So everything for them is on the line.

But then Zoe is sexually assaulted and everything changes for her, and the team.

Emma Kress explores the very real experience of a high school girl when it comes to having some sort of bad/horrible/violent sexual experience.  The statistics on sexual assault, attempted rape, and rape are scary when you research it.  And most of those statistics are directly about the female population, with higher statistics on trans youth.  I guarantee that if you talk to a random group of women and girls, you will find that almost all of them have some sort of incident, no matter how "small" it may be.  

Kress puts this reality to the forefront with deft hands, centering the conversation through Zoe and other members of her team.  How it effects everything in someone's life, and becomes, as it did for Zoe, the "Before" and "After".  And it is the "After" that is expanded upon. A focus on autonomy and agency, how much of the culture is perpetuated within our schools and our homes.  How the intersection of race and socioeconomic status make assault more prevalent.  This is the conversation that is both timely and needed.

But with this important reflection comes the authenticity of Zoe and her life.  She loves field hockey, she loves her friends, and she loves her parents.  All of these things are a deep part of her, and help her come to terms with what happened.  There is laughter mixed with sorrow.  There is happiness mixed with anger.  And there is love mixed with hate.  This group of girls will feel real because they are real.  The reader will know or have known one of these girls.  Zoe is an excellent spearhead to experience this story through, but the reader will also connect with the team as a whole.

An excellent book, a much needed book, and must buy book, Dangerous Play by Emma Kress is not one to be missed.  Out now, you can purchase wherever books are sold (or enter below for your chance to win a finished copy).

Final Rating



THE AIR FEELS DIFFERENT OUT here—wilder, freer. In a few minutes, our girls will jump out of windows and leap off roofs all over town. Ava already has. She’ll be here soon. I could leap off this roof, swing around the elm branch, and let go into a tight flip before landing on the ground. It would totally get a 10 from the German judge.

But the soles of my shoes stick to my bedroom floor, and my hands hold tight to the window frame. I’m not Ava.

And I don’t do rooftops.

I tuck my head back inside, shut the window, and head to my parents’ room. I lean my note on Dad’s nightstand but send one of his pill bottles rattling to the ground. So much for subtle.

Sure enough, his eyes open, narrow and cloudy. “Sorry,” I whisper, grabbing the bottle. “Go back to sleep.”

“Hey, Zoe. Mom home yet?” He turns to check the other side of the bed, but his face tightens, as if a burst of pain radiated across his back.

“No, no.” I guide him back onto his side. “It’s still early.”

He checks the alarm clock: 11:28 p.m. He smirks. “You leaving me another note? Most teenagers just do the respectable thing and sneak out.”

“I am totally sneaking out. We’re just having a conversation first.” I check the notepad I put by his bed. “It looks like you could take another pain pill. Do you want one? More water?”

“I’m fine. You have fun at that frat party now.”

“Sure, Dad.” I kiss him on the forehead. “Don’t be surprised if I come home pregnant.”

“Don’t forget drunk and high!” He sticks his thumb up.

I close the door on his laugh.

Rushing back to my room, I grab my stick and backpack, and tap my Tar Heels poster for good luck before dashing down the stairs and out the front door.

* * *

When I slide into the big van’s passenger seat, Ava smiles at me. “I’ll bet you a giant plate of Tully’s chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks that you left a note.”

I refuse to look at her. “Shut up and drive, Cap’n.”

“Aye, aye, Cap’n.” She laughs. “I’ll also take payment in anything cheesy … Doritos, nachos, pastelitos, Cheetos. What do Os have to do with cheese?”

We drive down sleepy streets, windows open, gathering our team of girls dressed in black who tumble out of their windows, forward roll down their front lawns, and pile into the back of the van, their sticks clanging against the metal floor, their laughs bouncing off the roof. The girls bump into one another when the van turns, limbs tangling.

We take Lakeview Road, with its small one-story houses packed tightly on one side and the expanse of lake on the other. The lake is big enough that you can’t really see the other side, especially at night. A ways down, the road winds away from the lake, and the only people with access to the view are the ones who can pay for it. But here, it’s open to all of us.

We pull into the empty lot of the beach. North of Syracuse, this is about as close as we get to a real beach. I pretend the lake with its dark water and dark beyond is the ocean, that I’m someplace better and warmer than here, and that I’m on the edge—the very edge of everything old and new and just beginning. I breathe in the air thick with water, lake weeds, and tumbled earth and let the warmth of it soak in.

Tonight it’s nothing but us, sand, water, and moonlight.

We scramble out of the van, and the lake bounces our laughter back to us. Four girls plant goals with glow-in-the-dark flags, while others volley the glow-in-the-dark ball back and forth on the flat of their sticks. I slide face paint across Ava’s cheeks, the neon-blue streaks bright against the night.

“Blue team here!” Ava shouts, and she paints her team as they come to her.

Liv marks me with my favorite color. “Green!” I call, and my group clumps together, marking one another’s faces. Our individual features fade away, and we become darkened bodies with glowing stripes in school colors that crinkle when we laugh.

“What do you say, Cap? No rules?” Dylan wiggles her eyebrows, her peroxide-blond hair catching the moonlight.

I tilt my head at her. She’s always pushing it. “Save it for parkour. Tonight’s all about fockey.”

Liv knocks her stick against Dylan’s. “Besides. Your version of no rules might involve someone losing a leg.”

Dylan smiles, twisting her stick in her hands. “I just think these sticks would look better with a little blood on ’em.”

Liv laughs.

We knock sticks and run to position. “Sticks Chicks!” Our two centers tap the ground beside the ball and click sticks three times before each tries to strike it. Green wins the ball and takes off, and Blue swears as we whoop toward the goal.

Sticks beat shins, faces eat sand, and arms throb from whacking the sand dunes that rise and dip around us. Beach hockey makes for some mad conditioning. After months of training plus a summer of midnight games, our bodies are weapons-grade. And it doesn’t matter what’s happening at home or that school’s starting soon because beaches and moonlight make everything better. When we break for water, we’re panting, but smiling.

Last fall, we finished yet another sucktastic season of field hockey where we lost nearly every game. So in a radical move, Coach made me and Ava co-captains, seeing as we were the only players who’d ever tried anyway. For ten months, we handpicked and trained a new fockey team for the coming season. This fockey team.

“Not a bad group,” Ava says.

I look at her. “We made this happen.” We click sticks. “Coach is going to shit herself when she sees a full-blown team show up on Monday.”

“Ew.” Liv crinkles her face at me. “I haven’t met the woman yet. I definitely don’t want to see her shit herself.”

I smile, but I’m thinking of our team, of Coach’s face. Because of us, we’re powerful enough to get to States and bring the scouts. The sureness of it fills me up as big as the lake, until my feet can’t stay still. I race across the sand, slamming it with my stick. “Fockey time!”

Blue takes it first, but Green steals it back, and the ball soars to me. I tap-tap it over the sandy divots, their edges hard in the moonlight, their dips like black holes. The goal flags wave at me from the other end: an invitation. I run against the wind, lifting my stick high to drive the ball over the dunes and between the flags.

Something blurs my vision.

An animal storms onto the sand. No, not an animal. A girl. My stick connects with the ball all wrong and it arcs through the air and splinters the flag post.

“Hey!” someone yells at her. “What’s your problem?”

“Who runs out in the middle of a game?”

“I—I’m sorry.” The girl’s out of breath and twitchy. “I didn’t…” She looks behind her and I follow her gaze, squinting toward the parking lot, to the houses I know squat beyond. But the night is too close, too dark, and I can’t see anything. A car door slams in the distance and she jumps. “I—I have to go.” She turns.

“Are you okay?” I reach out my hand, but she flinches before I even touch her.

“I have to go.” She looks back into the blackness, then at us, then back again, pressing her hands down her shirt again and again like she’s trying to press out the wrinkles. “I—I’m sorry about your game.” And just like that she takes off down the road, the opposite way from where she came.

It isn’t like running or jogging. It’s more like crashing.

“They said ‘venti coffee?’ She said, ‘twenty coffees.’”

“That’s a walk of shame. Did you see her shirt?”

“I know! It was buttoned all wrong. Someone was gettin’ busy.”

“I think her name is Nikki. We had Health together last year.”

“Nikki Cassavetti?”

Ava looks toward the goal. “Shit. Our flag broke. Nice going, Cap’n.”

But all I can think of is the girl. Nikki. Of the way her eyes didn’t seem to see anything at all. The way her white shirt blazed against the night. The way she shuddered and ran. And I wonder where she was running to—or what she was running from.

“No goal, no problem. Let’s swim.”

We strip down to our underwear and splash into the cool water, laughing, diving. Our shouts dance across the lake with the moonlight while our sweat and paint wash away in the dark water.

But every time I slip under and the voices dull above me, the cold dark closes in.

About the Author

Emma Kress is a graduate of Vassar College, Columbia University’s Teachers College, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program. An educator of over 20 years, Emma was a finalist for New York State Teacher of the Year in 2014. Before teaching, Emma worked in social services helping survivors of sexual assault. Now, she lives with her family in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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