March 2010, Frances Lincoln
336 pages, Paperback
Children's, Thriller, 9+
Nayuleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥♥♥
Summary from Frances Lincoln
Nat has grown up travelling around the world with his Dad. He's played football everywhere they've lived and honed his skills on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Now they are settling back at home in England. Then at a 'community' day at his favourite football team, Hatton Rangers, currently struggling at the bottom of the Premiership, Nat's talent is spotted by the club's scout. To his and his father's amazement, he finds himself talking to the manager about a place on the first team squad. There is just the little detail of his age - he's big for 13 but surely they can't get away with him posing as a 16-year-old, the minimum age for a professional player?
But the club's veteran striker takes an immediate dislike to Nat and warns him off trying to get a place on the team. Nat's suspicions are aroused and soon he begins to think there is something more to Hatton Rangers' poor performance, and a local reporter begins to have suspicions about Nat. What seems like every boy's dream is quickly confronted by the tough reality of the world of professional football in this superbly exciting thriller.
It's no secret that I'm not a fan of football. Yet strangely it doesn't stop me from picking up football centred novels. In fact, I would go as far to say it is because I don't like football that I requested Striker Boy. A book based on sport must be good if I enjoy it. I definitely enjoyed Striker Boy!
For those who enjoy football, there is a lot of football terminology in here. I still don't understand the game, but the strength of the writing meant I enjoyed hearing about strategies for matches. It's all as clear as mud to me. Nat's story is as clear as crystal.
Having to use a new identity isn't too much of a challenge, since Nat doesn't have a firm, permanent friend. He makes friends on the team, friends who are the total opposite of his enemies. This friendship is important. Nat is far from delighted at the house his father picks out for them. It will take a lot of work to make it feel like a home. This provides a source of tension between Nat and his father, a tension fueled mostly by early teen angst. Nat's emotions are believable, and came across loud and clear to me as a reader, and also to the other characters!
On top of that - there is the football thing. *grins*. Just a little thing. (I'm making an understatement on purpose). It's not often that 13 year old footballers unknowingly get drawn into danger. There were plenty edge of the seat moments in the book. I liked the change of point of views, leading us to guessing more about who Nat's enemy is. The finale had me in tears, it's a touching read in that area. (This isn't to deter boys from reading it, they would probably just think 'yes'!).
Be sure to check out another thriller from Frances Lincoln, When I Was Joe by Keren David