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You’d Better Check Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self

Meghan is glad that she entered the unfamiliar realm of jocks for Reality Check by Peter Abrahams.

You’d Better Check Yo’self Before You Wreck Yo’self

BOOK REPORT for Reality Check by Peter Abrahams

Cover Story: Fake ID
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Friday Night Lights, Boarding School (With a Twist)
Relationship Status: Take a Chance On Me

Cover Story: Fake ID

With Stephen King's blurb and the author's grown-up series shout out, and the distinct lack of cheesy stock art and emo faces, nothing about this book says it's underage.

The Deal:

Cody Laredo is looking forward to his all-important junior year -- his girlfriend Clea will be back from Hong Kong (where her dad sent her to live with an uncle after making - gasp! - a B in calculus) and college football scouts will be checking out his skills as quarterback. But right before school starts, Clea's overbearing father packs her off to boarding school in Vermont, so when Cody tears his ACL in the first big game and is out for the season, he thinks life can't get much worse -- until he sees the news that Clea's gone missing in the Vermont woods. Cody packs up, leaves a note for his drunk dad and takes off to find her.

BFF Charm: Yay!

I gotta be honest, I was never interested in the football players in high school. They were so cocky and seemed like such jerkwads, plus they had over-made-up fake-tanned girls in tight black capri pants and platform espadrilles hanging all over them, and even at the height of the 90s I knew that look was SO not Betty. But Cody is different. Sure, he mostly thinks about football, and he has a tough time in school, but he DOES have a brain in there after all. And he's sweet and a little shy, and just needs some confidence to help him realize he's not dumb or the loser good only for football everyone (including his dad and coach) takes him for.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Clea and Cody are already together at the beginning of the book, so there aren't the sparks you get from watching a relationship develop, but they do have a nice solid connection. And when Clea goes missing, it hurt. I whispered, "Pick up, pick up," right along with Cody every time he called her cell phone.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Peter Abrahams usually writes for grownups, and when an author makes the transition to YA, it usually goes one of two ways. Either they get so caught up in their new audience they resort to wacky LOLspeak and pandering tropes, or they just write a story like they always do. Abrahams just writes, and the result is fantastic. Cody's character is a realistic young man, a little old for his age (but with good reason), rather than a caricature of a troubled football star.

Mr. Beezon had asked to see him, and he'd gone to the upstairs office, where Mr. Beezon, a tiny old guy with a big nose and hair growing out of his ears, had talked Rattlers football for five or ten minutes -- Rattlers being the name of the County High teams -- and then offered him the job on the spot.

"Work hard and there might even be a raise in it for you," he'd said.

"Thanks, Mr. Beezon."

"And overtime, too, if this goddamn economy picks up."

Cody hadn't known what to say to that.

"Know what our problem is, Cody?" Mr. Beezon had said, leaning across the desk. His teeth were the same yellow color as the dinosaur fossil bones in the display room at the back of the Little Bend Public Library.

Cody had shaken his head.

"All those tax-and-spenders in Washington, that's our problem. What happened to this country, tell me that."

"I don't know, Mr. Beezon," Cody had said. "But, uh, I kind of like it."

See what he did there? A teen's-eye view of a washed-up old football geezer, some great description, and dialogue that shows a teen's disinterest in politics and difficulty expressing himself to authority figures, all without being condescending. And because I can't resist sharing more of Abrahams' awesomeness, there's this:

The stars came out, so many and so beautiful in the black sky, but not much company. Cody tried to find something on the radio. He drove through the night. The road went on and on, lit-up sights flashing by but mostly just the darkness. For the first time in his life he felt American. He'd been American the whole time, of course, just had never translated it into a feeling. Did all Americans share the feeling, have it the same? Cody didn't know. At some point during the night, he realized he'd forgotten his boots. And maybe was going to need them. Snow was falling the next day when he reached Chicago. He hadn't slept and his eyes were getting heavy, but Chicago didn't look like a good place for sleeping.

Bonus Factor: Friday Night Lights

If you're anything like me, your first reaction is to pull a Fred Savage ("Is this a FOOTBALL book?"). And that'd be totally understandable. Halfway through the pilot of Friday Night Lights, I turned it off and asked Posh and Erin if it REALLY was as good as they said it was, and if it EVER stopped talking about blitzes and snaps and all that football stuff. Of course they responded, "What are you doing? What what WHAT are you doing? Turn on the TV! WATCH IT! It gets SOOO GOOD!" And luckily I did, because DIZANG. And so I was willing to take a chance on this book, and DIZANG again. Seriously, if you don't like and/or understand the football stuff, just skim it, but don't give up! It's like Friday Night Lights -- sure, there's football because duh, Cody is a quarterback, but it's not like watching Sportscenter. There's SO MUCH MORE, and football is just the framework for this intense story.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School (With a Twist)

Clea gets shipped out to a fancy schmancy boarding school in Vermont, but we get to see it through the eyes of an outsider. There are a couple of great characters, like the adorbs Simon (who would totally make awesome bff material for Frankie) and Alex and Larissa, and some pretty nasty ones, too. But as a non-student, Cody gets to see a different side of dover academy than usually gets presented in YA books.

Casting Call:

Ben McKenzie as Cody

I know what you're thinking: what? Why in the world are you not casting Taylor Kitsch as Cody? And I see what you mean, but Cody's really REALLY not a Tim Riggins. Maybe it's the boy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks-dating-the-pretty-little-rich-girl thing, maybe it's the tough-guy-facade-hiding-a-mixed-up-kid-who-just-needs-a-break-thing, maybe it's just the name "Cody", but I couldn't get Ben McKenzie out of my head (doesn't he just LOOK like a Cody?).

Minka Kelly as Clea

Clea and Lyla Garrity both have douchebaggy fathers, so Kelly was a natural choice.

Relationship Status: Take a Chance On Me

As I mentioned earlier, I was dubious about this book, but it happened to be the first book I'd requested from the library to come in, so I went ahead and got it. I figured I was wrong about FNL, so maybe this book would be a nice surprise, too, and I am SO glad I took the chance! Now I can't wait to show it off to all my friends, but I'm a little afraid they'll try to steal it from me because it's so awesome.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.