Pride by Lazaros Zigomanis
Busybird Publishing. ISBN 9781925585247
(Ages: 15+) Highly recommended. Luke is an 18 year old country boy who loves the regular footy game with his mates, and there is a girl he's interested in, the daughter of the footy coach. Footy training has always been casual, nothing too demanding, and he and his mates enjoy a good drinking session afterwards. The girl, Amanda, has other ideas, she has serious plans for the future and little interest in people who seem to be just wasting life away. Luke is challenged to step up, and the new talent on the field, newcomer Adam, may be just the person to inspire the team to really commit to the game and take out the notorious Scorpions, led by the vicious Rankin. The Ravens coach would also like just once to lead a really great football team to victory.
It sounds like a simple enough story about teenage life in a country town, but there is a mystery at the heart of the novel, a mystery surrounding Adam, the Aboriginal player who just turns up to play one day, and then after each game disappears to his country the other side of the playing field. The more that Luke and Amanda try to find out about him, the stranger his story seems. Who is Adam really? Where is his family? Where does he go to each night? And why does Rankin, the Scorpion coach, seem so obsessed with him?
The twists in the story kept me engaged until the end. The mystery gradually reveals the undercurrent of racism and dispossession that haunts the Aboriginal player. The descriptions of the football matches are very gripping and I am not even a football fan, but I was thoroughly caught up in the action. The writing style is easy to read, the conversations sound authentic, and the portrayal of the relationships between people are very realistic; Luke's relationship with his silent stoic father is especially poignant.
There is a lot to like about this novel, it has humour, action, mystery, and football! This is the first Young Adult novel by Zigomanis. Hopefully there'll be many more.