Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review of Payback Time by Carl Deuker

Payback Time by Carl Deuker. Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Daniel "Mitch" True has had aspirations of being the editor of his school newspaper ever since his freshman year. But instead of being voted editor, or even lead reporter, he is assigned to be the school sports reporter. Mitch, named after the Michelin Man for obvious reasons, teams up with photographer Kimi Yon to cover all aspects of their school's sporting events. Little do they know this will lead them to become investigative journalists, trying to uncover the story behind the new, talented cornerback, Angel Marichal, who just appears on the practice field one day and has a bullet for an arm. To make matters worse, head football coach Hal McNulty will only let Mitch do interviews that he himself sets up, which makes Angel "off-limits!" On top of that, every time Mitch submits an article to The Seattle Times, Chet Jetton, the sports editor, cuts out everything about Angel! Between writing, sleuthing, and doing homework, Mitch manages to lose a lot of weight and solve the mystery at the same time. In one fell swoop, Mitch can nail Coach McNulty for using an inelgible player, which could be his ticket to admittance to journalism school at Columbia. However, Mitch and Kimi find out that things aren't always what they seem. They will have to decide if it is ethical to take advantage of their findings, and it could be the hardest decision they have ever made.

What a great read this was! The story is filled with intricate characters, plot twists, and fantastic descriptions of action-packed football games! Mitch is not your average hero; he is just an ordinary guy who has ordinary problems, and he meets them head on. The side plot of his losing weight shows that he is a very determined young man and extremely goal-oriented. Having him narrarate the story also gives him a very sympathetic, but persistent, attitude. Kimi Yon, to whom Mitch is attracted, provides an interesting "side-kick" to Mitch, and having her father, whom she describes as "embarassing, help them at a crucial point in the plot was pure genius! Coach McNulty comes across as guff and hard, but we see another side of him near the end of the book.

My only question about the plot is this: Why were Mitch and Kimi the only students to notice that Angel Marichal was not getting the attention he deserved for the crucial minutes he played in the school's football games? It seems odd that they would be the only ones to notice his heroics on the field! I wish some explanation would have been given for this. However, students ignoring Angel only served to deepen his mystique!
The final climax of the story is both surprising and exciting! Payback Time is not just for football fans, nor is it just for guys. I highly recommend this book for middle school, high school, and public libraries!