This is a timely book for two reasons:
1. The biggest sporting event in the world- the World Cup has recently completed
2. The fault in our stars has shone the spotlight on young people suffering from cancer.
It is difficult enough to work and live normally after cancer far less maintain an athletic career but that is exactly what the plucky protagonist of STRIKER aspires to do.
The book begins with thirteen year old Cody trying to work up the courage to ask his mom if he can try out for a new soccer team. We learn that he is recovering from having chemo for a cancerous tumor in his right leg-his kicking leg. After some back and forth between him and his parents (and between his parents) he gets to play. Needless to say, he joins a team with the worst possible mix of kids and glory hunting parents. Some of the mean kids tease him mercilessly about his shiny head- the chemo treatments have made him lose his hair.
While some of the characters are very one dimensional and serve as plot devices for Cody to have some measure of sporting revenge later on in the book I felt that at the very least they should have had their comeuppance and learned some humility. Life does not always work like that so in this regard I can understand why the author chose to focus on Cody's resilience. The book also focuses mainly on the games Cody plays for various teams. The author goes very much into detail so lovers of the game will enjoy that. Those who are not too familiar with the sport will still be able to get the gist of the action. Brazil is the spiritual home of the game of soccer and Skuy manages to finagle a connection between Cody and an extremely talented player from that nation.
We learn that Cody's mom was a very talented player in college and she herself suffered injuries so in that regard she is able to help Cody with what he is experiencing. At times though she is almost the stereotypical hovering mother and this is a source of friction between herself and Cody. Cody's father is almost ridiculously uninterested in soccer and sometimes sits in the car and reads-this I found difficult to believe.
Striker shows that in sport and in life one has to work hard to achieve one's goals and when there are bumps on life's road, you must try to overcome them. I recommend this book for ages 11-14. This post and more can be found on my personal blog here.