Cover of Press Play by Eric Devine. Four or five poorly focused male figures

About the Book

Title: Press Play
Published: 2014

Cover Story: Hazy (Get it?)
Drinking Buddy:
Health Shake
Testosterone Level:
Kick Me in the Jimmy!
Talky Talk:
A Boot Stomping on a Human Face, Forever
Bonus Factors:
Conspiracy of Silence, Mean Girls
Bromance Status:
That Whiny Kid Who Later Wound Up Dead

Cover Story: Hazy (Get it?)

Fuzzy Outlines is the new Giant Teen Faces.

The Deal:

Greg ‘Dun the Ton’ Dunsmore weighs closer to 400 pounds than 300 and he’s disgusted with himself. He turns himself over to his buddy Quinn, who forces him into a brutal exercise/diet program, causing him to start shedding pounds. He’s actually doing it. He’s getting skinnier.

Of course, he’ll never be an athlete. Not like those guys on the lacrosse team. They’re the lords of the school…hell, of the whole town. Everyone worships them, including Principal Callagan. They can do no wrong.

But as Greg and Quinn work out in the school’s empty weight room, they start hearing strange noises in the gym. Shouts. Screams. Thuds.

Someone is being hurt.

There’s an unbelievable tradition of hazing in this school. And not the zany ‘Hey, go fetch me a left-handed wrench’ or even the ‘Bend over for your paddling’ kind. No, people are ending up with broken bones and ruptured organs. And no one is allowed to quit.

Greg is an aspiring filmmaker, and would like to blow the lid off all this. With the help of Quinn, film nerd Ella, and fellow fattie Ollie, he attempts to get in all on hidden camera.

Those lacrosse lunatics will see the humor in this, right?

Drinking Buddy: Health Shake

Two pints of beer cheersing

Now Greg has always been unpopular, and the insulting names are kind of the white noise in the background of his life. And of course he’s constantly tripped, punched, and generally abused. It’s his lot.

But now that the team is on his back…now that they know he can destroy everything…they ramp it up. They bring on the pain. And administration turns a blind eye…when they’re not actively trying to teach Greg a lesson.

Just what is Greg willing to risk for the truth? A lot more than a wedgie or a black eye.

Testosterone Level: Kick Me in the Jimmy!

That was a Beavis and Butthead reference

Okay, these guys aren’t kidding around. Once you’re on the lacrosse team, they own your ass. If the captain says close your eyes and eat it, by God you eat it (see the title of this post).

And how do you think they’re going to react when a couple of lardos, a morose meathead, and an artsy girl threaten to take down everything they’ve worked for? They will stop at nothing to shut them up.

Talky Talk: A Boot Stomping on a Human Face, Forever

That was a 1984 reference.

This is a violent book. Like, prison movie violent. And since Greg is not powerful enough to fight back, he just kind of takes it, biding his time until he has enough footage to make his film.

Provided he survives. Some of those guys on the team…you get the impression that they could make a guy just kind of disappear.

And Principal Callagan, who already dislikes Greg because of his past exposés, isn’t about to lift a finger to stop this. Greg needs to mind his own business. It’s not the film club that brings the money into the school, it’s sports. If Greg were to have a little ‘accident’…well, he should have been more careful, right?

Like all of Devine’s books, there’s very little introspection and conversation. Everyone is depressed, pissed off, and hiding secrets. Not exactly a light read, but when you’re in the mood for something intense, this is your author.

Bonus Factor: Conspiracy of Silence

Hannibal Lector in his prison mask covering his cannibal mouth
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Anthony Hopkins, 1991

Okay, so the principal totally knows what’s going on with the hazing. So does the superintendent. And the coach. Maybe even the police. Greg and his crew have to do this on their own.

I didn’t entirely care for this aspect of the book. All adults were either evil (Callagan), useless (the film teacher and the superintendent), or clueless (Greg’s mother, who wants him to eat more). Greg is aware that he could call in outside help, like a lawyer or a federal agency, but insists on putting himself and his friends at risk. I can see where he’s coming from, but sometimes I got the impression he didn’t care if he ended up dead.

Bonus Factor: Mean Girls

Karen, Gretchen, and Regina at the mall (Mean Girls)

So you think bullying and violence are just a male thing, right? Wrong. Those lacrosse players have girlfriends, and they’re not going to let someone like Ella bring down the team. Maybe they need to arrange a meeting in the women’s room to teach her a lesson.

Ella is not about to be pushed around, however. In eighth grade someone started a rumor that she was a slut. And it cost her, big time. Maybe she’d like a little revenge of her own.

Also, props to Devine for not shoehorning a romantic subplot in here. Ella likes Greg because he’s a neat guy. Period.

Bromance Status: That Whiney Kid Who Later Wound Up Dead

I kind of thought he was just flapping his jaws. By the time I realized what this book was really about, it was too late.

FTC Full disclosure: I got a free copy of this from Running Press Publishers. No money, though. But they’ll pay…they’ll pay.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.