Backfield Boys
Sportswriting powerhouse John Feinstein's young adult novel Backfield Boys follows best friends and football stars Jason Roddin and Tom Jefferson, a perfect, though unconventional, pair: Jason, the Jewish kid, is lightning fast and a natural wide-receiver, while African-American Tom has an amazing arm and a quarterback's feel for the game. After summer football camp at an elite sports-focused boarding school, the boys are thrilled to enroll on scholarship for their freshman year--despite their mothers' fears of injury and especially CTE.On day one, they're stunned when the coaches make Tom a receiver and Jason a quarterback, a complete contradiction to their skill sets and training. They soon suspect this is a racial issue. The boys speak out, risking both their scholarships and their chance to play. But when Jason gets a concussion in the first game of the season, he and Tom must decide how much they're willing to lose in their quest to expose the ugly remnants of a racist past that still linger in contemporary jock culture.In Backfield Boys, -The best writer of sports books in America today- (The Boston Globe) tells a thrilling story of friendship, football, and a fight for justice.

Backfield Boys Details

TitleBackfield Boys
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 29th, 2017
PublisherFarrar Straus Giroux
ISBN-139780374305925
Rating
GenreRealistic Fiction, Sports and Games, Sports, Young Adult, Childrens, Middle Grade, Mystery, Teen, Football, Fiction

Backfield Boys Review

  • Ms. Yingling
    January 1, 1970
    E ARC from Edelweiss Above the TreelineTom and Jason are fairly happy in their public school in New York City, but they are both phenomenal football players and spend a summer at a football camp. Afterwards, they are offered positions at the prestigious sports prep academy in Virginia. Even though their mothers are less than thrilled about them playing football at all, they are offered scholarships that make the very expensive school seem worth the risk. Right away, things get uncomfortable. The E ARC from Edelweiss Above the TreelineTom and Jason are fairly happy in their public school in New York City, but they are both phenomenal football players and spend a summer at a football camp. Afterwards, they are offered positions at the prestigious sports prep academy in Virginia. Even though their mothers are less than thrilled about them playing football at all, they are offered scholarships that make the very expensive school seem worth the risk. Right away, things get uncomfortable. The boys expect to room together, but are separated. They are assigned positions that they don't normally play. When they ask about these things, the coaches are very put out and make it clear that they are not to be contradicted. Jason is Jewish and Tom is black, and the boys soon start to pick up on subtle and not-so-subtle incidents of racism in the school. Jason's roommate, a self-proclaimed "good ol' boy" named Billy Bob is from Alabama and does not share these prejudices, but he has spent more time in the South and understands how things work. When the boys realize that there has never been a black quarterback, and roommates are assigned along racial lines, they contact sports writers and start an investigation, especially into the most offensive coach as well as Gatch, the founder of the school, who has alarming ties to people whose track record on race is horrendous. Can the boys come up with concrete proof that things are not being done properly at their school?Strengths: Feinstein does a great job of writing for older middle grade readers as well as high school ones. I appreciated that he set this in a high school and dealt with serious issues without resorting to bad language or behavior. Tom and Jason are both very appealing characters, and the inclusion of sports reporters is a great example of "writing what you know"! This was reminiscent of Paul Volponi's titles like Black and White or John Ed Bradley's Call Me By My Name, and is a welcome addition to books about football that have some more serious themes. Weaknesses: Referencing Trump will date this one, and it is immeasurably sad to think that this level of institutionalized racism might still exist in the US, but that's why it's an important book. What I really think: This is an essential purchase for middle school and high school libraries. Also, I will never live South of the Ohio River. Just won't.
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  • Kimberley
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of "Backfield Boys" from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't impressed with this story. I felt there were far too manny tropes trotted out and too much emphasis on the political climate. While it's important to bring relevant issues--particularly in the world of sports--to the minds of today's youth, much of this felt like a lazy rehash. While I could easily figure out where this was going, I didn't feel like the book challenged the reader enough. There were fa I received an ARC of "Backfield Boys" from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I wasn't impressed with this story. I felt there were far too manny tropes trotted out and too much emphasis on the political climate. While it's important to bring relevant issues--particularly in the world of sports--to the minds of today's youth, much of this felt like a lazy rehash. While I could easily figure out where this was going, I didn't feel like the book challenged the reader enough. There were far too many instances where the black characters took the role of passivity, while the white characters stepped up to make change happen. Their is, whether intended or not, an undercurrent of someone (yet again) being the white savior. I didn't much care for that and, if I allowed either of my two preteen children to read this book, I'd immediately point out that tendency. In life, there will be a myriad of challenges and, while some are still holding to ignorance, it is our responsibility to do better. Is this a book that will at the very least bring forth conversation? Yes. If that alone was the author's goal, then he accomplished that much.
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  • L. Layale
    January 1, 1970
    This review was for a freely given ARC review via netgalley. This was an interesting story. It follows Tom, an African American boy and his best friend Jason who is white as they get an up-close and personal look at racism in the 21st century. To sum up their meeting and dynamic, they met when they were in elementary school both having a live of sports, but both excelling at football. Jason was a good receiver, and Tom a good quarterback. The interesting bit of their dynamic is that the author s This review was for a freely given ARC review via netgalley. This was an interesting story. It follows Tom, an African American boy and his best friend Jason who is white as they get an up-close and personal look at racism in the 21st century. To sum up their meeting and dynamic, they met when they were in elementary school both having a live of sports, but both excelling at football. Jason was a good receiver, and Tom a good quarterback. The interesting bit of their dynamic is that the author sets up the premise of reverse stereotyped roles in football. I'm not sure if this is an unspoken rule in American football, or if it's just a correlation of something noticed over the years in both American and football history. Regardless this is a very interesting story set up.Football is practically Americas unofficial religion. It has its roots deep in white male culture historically so they, meaning football and its overall institution are very averse to change. It plays on a lot of racial stereotypes that people want to pretend don't exist. So we have two best friends of different backgrounds with arguably the wrong skill set for their race. But regardless, they make a good QB-receiver combo that could change football history. When they get to high school as freshman after a having attended youth football camp run by the same school, they've been given each other's intended positions and when they try to correct or even pass an inquiry about it they slowly realize that there's something up with the coaches and the school, which a heavily ingrained yet unspoken rule of the social acceptance of discreet racism and discrimination from its staff and students.I was really surprised at the intense subject of this because it takes a still very relevant subject, racism, and puts it in an equally relevant and controversial sport- American football. I say it's controversial because as I mentioned, football is a stereotypical male sport and its rooted and date need back to the time of racism, segregation and discrimination. It delivered this subject in a very real and relatable way.What got me the most, negatively about this story was the fact that the characters were 14. I felt like the way the different characters in the story, spoke was not age appropriate, same for when they begin their research on the coach. However, I also understand that for them to truly understand racism directly in the way they did it had to be in a situation where they were coming into an already established institution which they did. It would probably have been better if they were college freshman and not high school freshman. I also didn't like that we didn't get to see the emotional toll on the two 14 year old boys, because they are just that boys. Sure we see a lot of the anger in different ways, but I would have also liked to see if it affected Jason and Tom's relationship to each other, which I think it should have to some extent. Still, I applaud the author for taking an interesting topic and dropping it into a context relevant. I also understood why they used high school students instead. So overall, I liked the story a lot. 3.5 stars.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I received this as an ARC at BEA.Jason is a stellar wide receiver, who is also white and Jewish. His best friend, Tom, is a stellar quarterback, who is also black. The only thing that really mattered between these two was how well they played football together. They have dreams of playing professionally together. To work toward this dream, the two attend a prestigious athletic school, TGP. Once at the school, the two quickly notice something rotten. The coaches have switched the positions Jason I received this as an ARC at BEA.Jason is a stellar wide receiver, who is also white and Jewish. His best friend, Tom, is a stellar quarterback, who is also black. The only thing that really mattered between these two was how well they played football together. They have dreams of playing professionally together. To work toward this dream, the two attend a prestigious athletic school, TGP. Once at the school, the two quickly notice something rotten. The coaches have switched the positions Jason and Tom play, the best friends are not allowed to room together, and a mean undercurrent runs beneath the school administration's facade. Jason and Tom fight to expose the racist underbelly of this school, with help from some of their new friends and local journalists. While most of the football talk went completely over my head, I totally get why the teen guys at my library are obsessed with Feinstein's books. The mystery element quickly pushes readers along. The characters are real and relatable. This novel did not have any questionable elements like sex or swearing, which makes it easier for me to put this book into younger hands. The story was well developed and is a novel I will certainly recommend.
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  • Lisa Brennan
    January 1, 1970
    Fueled by on-the-field action, Backfield Boys delivers a fast-paced story that triangulates sports, mystery and racial injustice in a perfect voice for Middle School readers. Tom and Jason, best friends, have grown up in NYC as an unstoppable duo of Quarterback and Wide-Receiver. Both receive scholarships to play at a prestigious boarding school in Virginia. Upon arrival, neither is assigned to the position for which he was recruited, and both boys are "stonewalled" when they raise questions. Si Fueled by on-the-field action, Backfield Boys delivers a fast-paced story that triangulates sports, mystery and racial injustice in a perfect voice for Middle School readers. Tom and Jason, best friends, have grown up in NYC as an unstoppable duo of Quarterback and Wide-Receiver. Both receive scholarships to play at a prestigious boarding school in Virginia. Upon arrival, neither is assigned to the position for which he was recruited, and both boys are "stonewalled" when they raise questions. Signs and symptoms of racism rise to the surface with each passing day, and when professional reporters get involved, a covert operation ensues. Backfield Boys is a story of courage, perseverance and friendship. While it will raise teen awareness of social injustice, it also relies upon stereotypes to unfold its own story. Middle grade readers may find it tough to view Virginia or other southern states in an objective light after enveloping themselves in undeniably realistic work of fiction. ARC copy via Netgalley ~ Lisa Brennan, Middle School Librarian @noveltalk
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  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    Feinstein's book, The Backfield Boys, mirrors the current racial distress in the U.S. Set at a private prep school in the South known for excellence in sports, the book tells the story of four football players and their struggle to experience fair play on and off the field. Also a story of friendship, the boys have to make difficult choices that will have wide ranging impact on their lives and the lives of many others.
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  • WANDA HARRISON
    January 1, 1970
    Mr. Feinstein has created an instant classic. Four boys, who are the main characters, set their racist coaches and owner of the college up for a much deserved fall. The boys struggles on and off the ball field strain their friendship almost to the breaking point, but they survive and walk away better men. I highly recommend this book.Charles R. Harrison
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  • Bickering Book Reviews
    January 1, 1970
    For a more in-depth review watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3BUK...A very relevant book that will appeal to sports fans. Feinstein is a master of sports books for younger teens and this book is definitely proof of that. We received an eARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Jenny Olechowski
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not really sure how to justify my end thoughts,but the sport aspect of the book seemed to distract from the real story. Perhaps I focused more on what I'm currently studying as an educator than the story itself.
  • Beth
    January 1, 1970
    Feinstein continues to write books that are interesting and compelling to young readers. It is so refreshing to find quality writing dealing with current topics which does not rely on inappropriate language or sexual content. Excellent book or middle or high school students.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    Review to appear.
  • Andrew
    January 1, 1970
    *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*I was kind of nervous about this one. I thought it could go either way quite easily with its description. I even kind of rolled my eyes after reading the prologue. But man was I pleasantly surprised by this book.As a quick aside, it doesn’t come up very much here but I am a huge football (particularly college) fan. When I hit August, I start hankering for football really badly. I read prev *I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*I was kind of nervous about this one. I thought it could go either way quite easily with its description. I even kind of rolled my eyes after reading the prologue. But man was I pleasantly surprised by this book.As a quick aside, it doesn’t come up very much here but I am a huge football (particularly college) fan. When I hit August, I start hankering for football really badly. I read previews for the season, I watch documentaries about past teams, and I’ll often watch old games just because I need to try to stave off the craving for it.This book hit the spot. It actually got to the point where it was talking about coaches and IMG Academy and other football things that made me wonder if it was a little too inside baseball for the average reader (upon further consideration I actually think that the author did a great job explaining things like IMG Academy so it would be accessible). The actual knowledge of college football really helped me speed through it and hooked me.All of this is kind of burying the lead though, since more than anything else this is a book about discrimination. What I think this book does incredibly well is set up a situation that seems completely realistic to me in modern day America. Tom is an African American who is an amazing quarterback and his best friend Jason is a Jewish wide receiver. Their positions are switched when they arrive at their new boarding school, which confuses them quite a bit. Along the way, they and their roommates uncover the discrimination (subtle and otherwise) at the school.I think two of the things the book does really well is provide a variety of characters from different backgrounds. It would have been very easy to write a book where all the southerners were racist or all the Christians were super judgmental (more on that later), but the book did not do this. The other thing I think it did really well was nail the standards the media needs to meet when doing investigative journalism. A lot of times throughout the book, there are instances where the boys think they have enough evidence to prove their case and two reporters they work with show how what they have come up with is just circumstantial. I think this is really important since a lot of scandals (in sports or otherwise) are grey areas because there is no way to fully prove the situation one way or the other, and this consideration is something that I thought was well done.The last thing that I really appreciated about this was how faith is woven into sports (particularly football). I watch Last Chance U on Netflix as another way to try to get myself to football season and something that really struck me was how much Christianity is used by coaches. It honestly kind of creeped me out because of how the school also bills itself as the way to turn around students with a difficult past, and it feels almost forced upon students. This was the same way in the book and was a point of contention for both main characters, but particularly Jason since he was Jewish. I think that this was something that is probably not thought about as much when it comes to discrimination in football (or at least I know I haven’t thought about it as much as I should have).I think this book is a great read and should definitely be checked out. My one concern is that a lot of references are very contemporary and I’m not sure how well they will age, however, even with that, I think the story itself will endure.Also posted on Purple People Readers.
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  • Becky
    January 1, 1970
    For a more in-depth review watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3BUK...I received an eARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.Jason and Tom are best friends and teammates and together they get recruited to n elite private school to play football. But when they arrive at school Jason, a wide receiver, and Tom, a quarterback, find their positions changed and themselves separated. As the two begin to settle into their new roles they uncover a culture of racism.This wa For a more in-depth review watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3BUK...I received an eARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.Jason and Tom are best friends and teammates and together they get recruited to n elite private school to play football. But when they arrive at school Jason, a wide receiver, and Tom, a quarterback, find their positions changed and themselves separated. As the two begin to settle into their new roles they uncover a culture of racism.This was the perfect book for young teen make readers. The characters feel real and the story of racism mixed with the concern of CTE were very timely. It will definitely appeal to sports fans and reluctant readers.
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