Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Ponga Boy" by Phil Lebherz and Philip Reed

"Ponga Boy" by Phil Lebherz and Philip Reed boasts of being "The Greatest Soccer Story Ever Told!" on the cover. It is far from perfect, but the story is quite riveting. It is about a boy from Mexico that is recruited to play at a California University on full scholarship. Full of acrobatics and perfect balance, the boy is known across his small town for his feats that seem to defy gravity. Supplementary characters have a real feel and seem to have real personality, too. The story begins when the boy is ten and progresses quickly to his first college experience. The culture of Mexico is vivid and rustic, while the culture of America is described as luxurious yet sinful. The boy plays soccer and is faced with some opposition from his new teammates. He learns about himself and eventually earns respect. There is also some internal conflict as the son of a fisherman grapples with what his future may hold away from Mexico. When he comes to America, he leaves behind his sweetheart from Mexico to be seduced by a Californian vixen. The romance in the book is not graphic but still not appropriate for young readers. What is interesting is this book sets forth the idea that men--not only women--can be subject to having drugs slipped into their drinks and be taken advantage of sexually. A moving part in the book is when the boy returns home to find his Mexican sweetheart clad in makeup and tight "American" clothes in an effort to keep the boy's heart. He then tells her to go back to her original look and that he likes her just as she is. He ends up back with his Mexican sweetheart, but readers are a bit judgemental when he does not confront her about his previous deeds of infidelity. This book reads like a movie and the sparse typos are like watching a film and seeing a stagehand every so often in the background--it is a bit irritating but people keep watching anyway. The morals of this book are sincere as the boy makes up his mind in the end and does what he knows is right.

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