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“We don’t retaliate and these guys will be laughing at us on the field. They’ll own us even before we step out there,” Jared. –Above All Else
Above All Else
by Jeff Ross
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers
Del is a striker on the school soccer team, the Cardinals, which has gone almost three seasons undefeated. To Del, it’s just a game, but some of the players think winning is all that matters. After an in-game altercation with the Cardinals’ main rival, the Rebels, one of Del’s teammates is attacked and seriously injured by an unknown assailant. Is it an act of retaliation or did someone finally take the above-all-else mentality too far?
Above All Else blends on-the-field action and mystery into a fast-paced story that will leave readers with one question: should a team play dirty in order to win?
While the story has some play-by-play soccer descriptions, much of the story revolves around the mystery of who hurt Del’s teammate. The mystery focuses on Del’s perspective, which allows the reader to piece together the clues. In the beginning, Del avoids conflict by staying quiet. However, in the end, he stands up for what he knows is right. Both Del and his teammates learn that “you can lose and walk off the field with your head high.”
Above All Else will appeal to both sports fans and mystery buffs. Written as a part of the Orca Soundings books, which are specifically written for teens, Above All Else is a fast-paced book that explores the idea of winning at all costs. While Above All Else may appeal to younger readers, parents may object to the frequent profanity and name-calling. However, older readers who are reluctant to read will enjoy this high-interest, easy-to-read story.
- Riley and Kira start spending time together. She goes to Riley’s soccer game. At halftime, Kira “threw her arms around Riley’s neck and kissed him full on the lips.” After the game, Riley and Kira “were locked in an awkward-looking kiss.”
- Riley and Kira kiss several more times, but the kisses are not described.
- During a soccer game, Rom intentionally hurts a player named Tim. Tim “was almost past Rom when Rom performed a slide tackle, knocking the ball out of bounds and sending Tim flying.” Tim is angry, but not injured.
- Later in the game, Tim is getting ready to score when “Rom rushed him. Tim went head-on into the challenge, probably thinking he could rotate around Rom at the last second. . . Rom charged and, as Tim began his rotation, jutted his leg out and caught him square on the knee.”
- After Rom takes down Tim, Tim’s teammates “ran right into Rom and took him down. He managed to get four quick punches in before his own teammates pulled him off . . .”
- Del and his friend, Riley, find their teammate Rom injured. Riley says, “I just found him here . . .” Rom was “completely out.” Later Rom tells his friends, “Someone came up behind me while I was getting into my car and choked me out.” Rom’s ankle is also badly injured.
- Del and his friends go into an abandoned mall, looking for the person that they think injured Rom. Del “turned around to find Jared sitting on top of Doug Richards.” After that, there is a lot of chasing, but everyone gets out of the mall without being hurt.
- Elsa tells Del, “my brother got beat up at the mall the other night.”
- At a game, Del accidentally crashed into the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper “caught me in the side of the head with a quick sharp punch. . . I tried to stand up to get away from the situation and he kicked me in the gut.”
- Elsa and Del go back to the abandoned mall and a gang chases them out. When Elsa and Del get in the van, “the guys were banging on the van like wild apes.” When she goes to leave, Elsa runs over someone’s foot.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Profanity is used often. Profanity includes ass, bullshit, crappy, damn, hell, piss, and shitty.
- There are many instances of name-calling, which include asshole, dick, dickhead, idiot, sucker, prick, dillweed, and knobs.
- Del and his friends are going into an abandoned mall. When Del doesn’t want to go, his friend says, “Grow a pair, Del.”
- One of the other team’s players yells at Del, “Goddamn dirty players.”