Pressured to excel in football since the age of four, freshman running back Mick Johnson will do anything to make the starting lineup for Shilshole High School. He works harder than anyone else in practice. He knows the game better than his competition. But, when all of this hardwork ends in a botched play that loses his team a spot in the playoffs, Mick starts the summer determined to do something different. He hits the gym hard every day. And when his trainer offers to sell him pills gauranteed to enhance his performance, Mick pushes aside his initial fears and buys them. At first, Mick isn’t sure how he feels about taking steroids, but by the time training camp rolls around, one thing seems certain: the pills work. Mick makes the starting line-up his sophomore year, and goes off the steroids before the season starts, against the advice of his trainer. In his first two games, Mick breaks a string of school records. Then, he follows this with three mediocre games, and all the while a freshman running back, Dave Kane, starts to show Mick up in practices. Afraid of losing everything he gained over the summer, Mick starts taking steroids again, only this time he takes a stronger dose that heightens the chance of dangerous roid rages and depression.
Deuker has crafted a realistic protagonist who struggles with insecurities about his body, his personal worth and his identity outside of football. The story combines heart-racing football scenes, conflicts with family and friends as well as Mick’s inner conflict. The fast pace will hold reluctant readers, and established readers will be shocked by the series of twists at the end.