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“New things are part of the joy of life. You have to open up to them. Even if it’s difficult,” Sir Mathilde. —The Breakaways
by Cathy G. Johnson
AR Test, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ
Shy fifth-grader, Faith, has never played soccer. When popular girl, Amanda, invites her to join her soccer team, Faith figures that it’s an opportunity to make friends. There’s just one problem: when Faith arrives at practice, she finds out that Amanda is on the best team, while she is on the C team—the worst team. Faith finds herself stranded on a ragtag team where it seems like no one is interested in playing soccer, and many of the players aren’t interested in being friends with each other.
The Breakaways is a graphic novel that follows Faith and her teammates as they navigate middle school, their relationships and soccer. The story concept is unique and funny as it is an inversion of the standard sports story. Unlike most sport books, Faith and her teammates aren’t serious about their sports, and they don’t strive to be great. The characters in The Breakaways aren’t good at soccer, but they discover that their friendships don’t rest on wins or losses. Many of the players even bond over their dislike for the sport, showing that their lives are much more than the sport that they play.
The Breakaways has a diverse cast of characters and several characters are LGBTQ+. This includes Faith, who is bisexual, and Sammy, who comes out as trans. There is also an array of cultural differences in the characters. For instance, Yarelis and her mom have a conversation in Spanish, and Nadia wears a hijab. The diverse characters make the story relatable for readers who don’t otherwise feel represented in literature. Johnson creates an inclusive environment for the team and for the readers as well.
Despite the diversity and the fun concept, the book feels too short, as none of the characters have a well-developed individual story. Some characters, like Yarelis, get only a couple pages and then their stories stop abruptly. Some pages are dedicated to scenes that aren’t expanded upon. For instance, Faith has daydream sequences where she envisions herself as a young knight on a quest. Although these scenes and the rest of the book are beautifully illustrated, these sequences don’t seem to add anything to the plot and are never really addressed outside Faith’s imagination.
The Breakaways discusses themes of friendship and acceptance through this ragtag soccer team. Despite joining for a variety of reasons, the players come together and try to make their experience fun. Even though the characters’ stories are cut short, the overall message is about learning how to make the best of a bad situation. For a reader searching for an empowering and feel-good book, look no further.
- Sodacan tells Faith, “I saw you looking at Molly’s bra today.” Faith is flustered.
- Jennifer tells Molly, “I’m gonna hit on Jalissa’s brother today.”
- Molly and Jennifer argue about Marcus, the boy they both like, during a soccer game.
- In one illustrated panel, Molly kisses Marcus on the cheek.
- Marie likes Sammy and admits her feelings one night. Sammy, another member of the team, comes out as trans. He says, “I think I’m a boy.” They briefly discuss it, then they kiss because they like each other.
- One player, Zoe, asks Faith, “Do you like boys?” Faith responds, “I don’t know who I like. Maybe boys. Maybe girls.” She then talks about her aunt who “lives with her wife in New York.”
- Zoe admits that she is attracted to girls.
- Zoe compliments Yarelis’s ability on the bass, and it seems like flirting. Yarelis blushes in the next panel.
- Sammy tells Sodacan that he’s a boy. Sodacan doesn’t understand, and Marie says, “He’s trans.” Sammy explains further and says, “It means when I was born, the doctors said I was a girl, but I’m actually a boy.”
- Marie and Sammy are dating.
- Sodacan claps Faith on the back in a friendly way.
- After they discuss Yarelis joining their band, Yarelis hits Sodacan’s head with a vinyl sticker.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Marie says of another player, “Miss Prissy is too good for us dogs!” Other terms like goody two-shoes are also used often.
- Two players are called Bulldog (Molly) and Warthog (Jennifer). It is implied that they do not know about these nicknames.
- Rude language is used frequently by the teens. Rude language includes: dumb, stupid, turd, shut up, crazy, fool, suck, dweeb, nerd, crappy, and losers.
- Molly and Jennifer pick on Faith because her name sounds like fart. When another player defends Faith, Jennifer tells Sodacan, “You’re such a pig.”
- Marie asks Sodacan why she’s sticking up for “that baby” when talking about Faith.
- One player jokes that the team sucks and people laugh. Molly makes the same joke, and Coach makes the team run laps. Molly says, “What? Sammy does it and it’s okay? Only tiny girls get to be rude?”
- Jennifer rejects a car ride from a classmate on the way to school. He calls her, “Ugly, trashy Warthog.”
- Marie and Sodacan make up. Marie says, “I should hit you, though. You deserve it. You are sorta a jerk.” Sodacan replies, “You are too. We’re sorta jerks together. That’s our thing.”
- Jennifer gets mad at Molly after her remark causes the team to run laps. Jennifer says, “God, Bulldog.” Another player yells, “Oh my God” in frustration during practice.
- One player, Nadia, wears a hijab.
by Alli Kestler