Waters, Eric. Juice. Orca, 2005. ISBN 978-1551433516 $9.95
Michael “the Moose” Monroe has just been named MVP of the year for a season’s worth of sacks, playing with heart, and scoring the winning touchdown at the Division Two championship game, but the victory is bittersweet when his a coach and mentor announces his retirement following the team’s victory. The replacement shows up before the end of the school year and makes a lot of changes, including state-of-the-art equipment, a specialist in nutrition and bodybuilding, and homemade smoothie concoctions of milk and ice cream laced with vitamins, protein powder–and steroids. When the assistant coach approaches Michael about adding “juice” to his regime to give him an edge, he quavers, but the adult preys on Michael’s football dreams.
Like other Soundings titles, the pace is fast, plot tight, and characters boiled down to their essences. Opportunities for discussion abound–drug use, good sportsmanship, steroids in professional sports, and personal ethics all come into play.
Drama and action are balanced well and the author avoids a heavy-handed moral tone by cleverly relaying the negative side-effects of steroids as Tony shoots them down one by one during a conversation with Michael.
Less edgy than other titles, this is a book clean enough for middle school students, and is timely to boot. This hi-lo book has a reading level of 2.9 and is recommended for school and public library collections.