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Gym Candy    by Carl Deuker order for
Gym Candy
by Carl Deuker
Order:  USA  Can
Houghton Mifflin, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Lyn Seippel

Mick Johnson loves football. He's been in training since he was four when his dad bought him a purple and gold mini football and took him out in the backyard to play. Even then his training was serious. His dad's talent for the game won him a college scholarship and third line pick in the AFL, although he only played for one season. His dream becomes Mick's dream.

When Mick learns the complete story of his dad's professional career he is angry and hurt, feeling their relationship is built on a lie. Now that he knows the truth, he is able to use the lessons his dad learned the hard way. He forgives his dad, who will always be his biggest fan and his most demanding supporter.

Through hard work and practice Mick wins a place on the varsity football team as a freshman but it is unlikely he'll do more than sit on the beach as backup, allowing the older players to play the game. Then someone else's bad luck puts him on the field.

The games get tougher and tougher. Deciding practice isn't enough, Mick joins a gym to bulk up. Later to keep his advantage, he swaps health drinks for steroids offered to him by his gym trainer. The cost of performance enhancing drugs is more than Mick can imagine. He dreams of winning, always being on top, but his losses are greater than the advantages he hopes to gain.

In the beginning of this sobering story, Mick writes an amazing essay explaining why he loves football. The essay kept me reading when the depictions of on field action became tedious. Some readers will love the play by play of the games, but some will just love the boy who wrote the essay.

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