Inkyard. Sept. 2021. 320p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781335402516.
Gr 9 Up–Black high school football captains Russell (Rus) Boudreaux and Marion LaSalle are painfully aware of the racially divided towns of Westmond and Monroe in Louisiana. They are antagonized by two white rival players, Bradley Simmons and Lawrence Perkins, at a game at Westmond High. Marion is arrested by Officer Reynaud on trumped-up charges and kicked off the team. Rus takes a knee during the national anthem at the following game in an act of solidarity; is kicked off the team by his coach; and is villainized by the media, his teammates, and his parents. Rus also starts falling for old friend Gabby Dupre. He questions his political stance when his and Marion’s futures are on the line. A mystery person leaves protest fliers demanding police accountability in Westmond and the culprit is closer to home than Rus realizes. A peaceful protest in Westmond turns ugly and the lives of Rus, Marion, and Gabby forever change. Buford’s YA novel will bring to mind Colin Kaepernick’s political stance against police brutality and his censure by the NFL. Readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering about the teens’ fates. Young people will also appreciate the discussions of food justice, vegetarianism, and green urban spaces in lower-income African American communities through the characterization of Gabby, who is a Black vegetarian. Buford has created relatable characters who will resonate with readers.
VERDICT This novel is a necessary purchase for conversations about systemic racism, police brutality, and food justice.

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