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“Well, if you don’t really try, then you can’t really fail, right. And if you don’t fail, then no one can be too disappointed,” Tabitha. –Breakaway
by Andrea Montalbano
Twelve-year-old Lily knows her place in the world is on the soccer field. When she’s out there scoring goals, everything’s right. Lately, though, her competitive spirit has been getting the best of her, and she begins to alienate all of her friends. Tabitha, a popular girl who spends most of her time on the bench, would give anything for Lily’s confidence and ability on the soccer field. Meanwhile, Lily secretly admires Tabitha’s world of money and friends. When it’s Lily on the bench instead of Tabitha, she figures out a few things she never expected and realizes that sometimes it takes more skill to make others look good instead of yourself.
Lily clearly loves soccer, but she is often overconfident and has a difficult time controlling her anger. Lily tells her own story in Breakaway, which allows the reader to follow Lily’s thought process and understand her emotions. When Lily isn’t picked up for a select team, she gets angry at her best friend, Vee, who makes the team. Lily is overcome with jealousy and also “was developing a long laundry list of people to blame.” Lily believes that she is the best player on the team, and others should recognize her skill. When Lily is suspended from the team, she has a hard time taking responsibility for her actions. It isn’t until the end that she realizes, “I can tell you all the talent in the world is wasted if you think you can do it all alone. No one can. The world doesn’t work like that. Families don’t work like that, friendships don’t work like that and I’m pretty sure soccer teams don’t work like that either.”
Even though Lily’s family life is interspersed in the story, the long descriptions of soccer make the story best for soccer fans. The fast-paced story teaches many lessons about sportsmanship as well as the importance of taking responsibility for your actions. Lily’s parents are another positive aspect of the story. They are interesting, unique, and demonstrate healthy family relationships. Her parents don’t expect her to be perfect. Instead, Lily’s father tells her, “You can’t erase your mistakes, LJ. You can make up for them and you can make sure not to repeat them, but you can’t just will them to disappear.”
Breakaway combines soccer and family into a fast-paced story that teaches positive lessons. The story’s advanced vocabulary and the large cast of characters makes Breakaway best for proficient readers. Soccer fans may also want to read the other books in Montalbano’s series, Soccer Sisters. As a former soccer player, coach, and motivational speaker, Montalbano creates an entertaining story about soccer, friendship and family.
- During the soccer games, there are some players that use illegal moves. For example, during a game, “Lily trapped the ball with her thigh and turned to shoot, but something caught her foot, and instead of making contact she fell straight to the ground, getting a mouth full of dirt… She had been tripped.”
- During a game, “a Rockets defender shoved Vee from behind, knocking her flat and stealing the ball.”
- When some boys are being mean to Lily and Vee, Lily gets angry. “Before Griffin could say another word, Lily tossed her ball up and volleyed it directly at his head. It flew like a rocket, and he ducked just a millisecond before the ball would have hit him like a missile, stumbling to the ground and smacking his hands hard on the pavement.”
- To stop Vee, a player “brought her down from behind. Could have broken her ankle or wrecked her knee.”
- During a game, the other team began “taking cheap shots… Reese was knocked down at midfield.” Later, “The sweeper grabbed at Tabitha’s arm. She grabbed her uniform. Tabitha tried to get the shot off, but it was too late: the defender grabbed her from behind and pulled her to the ground.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- At dinner, Lily’s father “took an unusually large gulp of wine.” Later, her father “took another large sip of wine.”
- Darn is used twice. When Lily’s aunt was late, she said, “the darn car wouldn’t start.”
- Jerks is used three times. Some of the characters refer to others as jerks or call them jerks.
- Vee is upset that Lily went to Tabitha’s house. Vee says, “Oh, like the queen of Brookville would ever have a Lakewood loser like me over to her house.”
- Crap is used once.
- Lily’s grandfather calls her “brutta,” which means ugly in Italian. “It was an old Sicilian fear that if you talked too much about the beauty of a child, particularly a girl child, then the gods would come and take her away.”
- When Lily throws a ball at a boy, it “slammed into the big glass yellow H hanging in front of the Heritage sports bar… Oh please, don’t let it fall, Lily prayed to herself.”
- Lily goes to a friend’s house, and a group of boys are playing video games. Lily “prayed they would stay interested in the game.”
- When Lily has to clean her father’s restaurant’s windows, she “lifted the squeegee and got to work, praying no one she knew would walk by.”