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Wow. Wow! The young adult book Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen was one of the most disturbing books I’ve read, yet also one of the most captivating.

The boys on the football team are gods at Oregrove High School and the coaches enhance their idol-like status by providing them with steroids. An unhealthy rivalry begins when the gymnastics coach sets out to prove to the football establishment that his boys are just as strong if not stronger than the football players.

After a one-on-one challenge in which a gymnast wins in a leg lift competition, the humiliated football captains set out to prove their strength by bullying the smaller gymnasts. The brutish football players, who can do no wrong in anyone’s eyes, cruelly attack one of the smaller gymnasts, which results in a horrifying turn of events. And here is where the book gets disturbing, so much so that I don’t know if I would even recommend it to a teen. It is hard to read and takes some strong emotions to plow through a few of the scenes. There is plenty of cursing, sex, and demented characters, so consider yourself warned!

I won’t spoil the story, but I will say, amid the pain there is a beautiful, deep, loyal friendship that develops between a talented gymnast who is a witness to his teammate’s abuse and a stuttering football player, who is in foster care after a rocky and troubling past, trying to find his way at a new school and on a football team full of egomaniacs.

It’s not until the last few pages of the book when you finally learn if evil or good prevails. And, I say again, wow – I loved this ferocious, gritty story.
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