Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Broken Field

Broken Field by Jeff Hull
Skyhorse/Arcade Publishing: 10/2/18
eBook review copy; 360 pages
ISBN-13: 9781628729825

Broken Field by Jeff Hull is a very highly recommended look through the eyes of a teen girl and the coach of a high school football hazing incident in a small Montana town.

The Dumont Wolfpack is looking at a winning season. Tom Warner is the coach who is leading the team to the playoffs. After the last win, Tom gives his assistant coach permission to make the five hour drive home with his wife. He then sits up front in the bus, near the driver, and doses during the drive home. Obviously he didn't know that while he was dozing an underclassman was taped to a luggage rack, striped, and tormented. During a rest stop, cheerleaders got on the bus and captured the disturbing hazing on the school's yearbook camera. When they get home, a mother of one of the cheerleaders finds the pictures and calls Tom.

Sixteen-year-old Josie Frehse is a teen who is outgoing and friendly to everyone. She tries to meet the expectations of her family and the community. She is the sister of the football team’s star runner and girlfriend of the quarterback, Matt, one of the ringleaders of the hazing. Josie and Matt are at the top of the high school social hierarchy, but Josie is beginning to question what she wants. Matt is moody, has a sense of entitlement from sports, and is self-important, and Josie is not sure she actually wants to stay with him after high school.

Tom and the school principal question the players involved and Tom offers up his resignation as football coach. When word of the incident gets out, the town is polarized. Is this a case of "boys will be boys" and a "tradition" that almost all the male members of town have gone through or is this abuse? Then the incident attracts the attention of the media and cannot be ignored. The story is told through the point-of-view of Tom and Josie.

Broken Field is beautifully written novel and captured my attention immediately. Hull has crafted his well-developed his characters with such empathy and understanding that you will care about these people and have compassion for them. There are heartbreaking moments, actions that angered and polarized my feelings, and other actions that left me shaking my head. In the end I felt like I knew this town, for better or worse, and these people.

The ending was not quite what I expected after the adept, skillful, quiet, and psychological insight found in the rest of the novel, but that doesn't mean it was bad. Upon reflection, sending the novel in that direction was an astute choice. This is truly a memorable novel that touches on idolizing sports, racism, bullying, and violence against women. Hull has an intuitiveness for character development that made it a compelling, engrossing novel that held my attention throughout. (There are, obviously, several sports scenes described in the novel that non-sports fans can skim.)

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Skyhorse/Arcade Publishing.

No comments: