Title: Pop
Author: Gordon Korman
ISBN: 9780061742286
Pages: 260 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bay, c2009.

Crash!
They didn’t see it happen, but the sound was unmistakable. When they got to the fence, there sat the football: in the passenger seat of a Toyota camry, clearly visible through the shattered side window.
“Great,” groaned Marcus. This definitely wasn’t the introduction to the community he’d had in mind. “I guess we have to leave a note and offer to pay–”
Nothing could have prepared him for his companion’s reaction to the crisis. Charlie took one look at the broken car window, vaulted the gate, and pounded down the street at an astonishing rate of speed. He never looked back. In fifteen seconds, he was simply a retreating dot.
Of all the strange things about a very strange person, this one had to take the prize. Here was the teenager, ready to own up and make restitution. And here was the mature adult, fleeing the scene like an irresponsible kid. (8-9)

Marcus Jordan has recently moved with his recently divorced mother from Olathe, Kansas to Kennesaw, New York. In anticipation of trying-out for last season’s undefeated varsity team, he begins to practice with Charlie, a strange 50 year old guy who is agile, strong, and fast with the football. Although he’s added to the team as essentially a bench warmer, Marcus begins to gain notice as he continues to practice with this guy. But not everyone is happy with his skills, as the star quarterback Troy Popovich sees him moving in on his position and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Alyssa. Troy has more problems then football and females, as Marcus soon unwittingly becomes involved in a secret that the family is trying desperately to keep private.

Most reviews I’ve read of this book mention the fact that Charlie turns into ex-NFL player Charlie Popovich who is secretly suffering from Alzheimer’s. If the name sounds familiar, yes, Troy and his sister are trying to keep their father’s illness a secret. Marcus’s involvement with Charlie quickly increases, and his efforts to keep Charlie’s secret result in him getting in trouble with the police. As someone with family members who suffer from the disease, the conflicted feelings that Marcus suffers are well portrayed. No one, least off all Charlie’s family and Marcus, are able to determine what’s best for him, whether they should encourage his “fantasies” of his teenage glory days or not. Troy’s also conflicted about the game, since Charlie’s brain damage is attributed to the concussions he received while playing football. The ending of the book is good if bittersweet, with both Marcus and Troy coming to terms with Charlie’s diagnosis. As a huge fan of No More Dead Dogs, it was amazing how well Gordon Korman wrote something a little more serious, yielding a highly recommended sports story.

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