Recommended for ages 14+
Greg Dunsmore – known as “Dun the Ton” – wants to get the hell out of his town, and knows film school is his ticket. He’s working on a documentary about his own weight loss journey, hoping it will get him in. While he’s recording his workouts one day, he also captures a brutal instance of hazing by the upper classmen of the school lacrosse team. Now, he’s committed to exposing the truth – but as he discovers how high the conspiracy to cover the abuse up goes, the hazing continues, and he and his friends find themselves in the team’s crosshairs. Is there a point where the truth is less important than your own safety?
This is Chris Crutcher meets Robert Cormier, with moral dilemmas coming at the characters – and therefore, the readers – right and left. Greg is on a personal journey when he discovers the hazing, but he struggles multiple times with what action to take – the guys on the team are jerks – does he have personal responsibility to them? Why? He has no personal investment in this, and has so much to lose. Does he want to expose the abuse for his personal gain? And if he does, does that make him a bad person? Does it matter, as long as the story is told?
This is a brutal book. There are language and content issues that some readers may not be able to handle, but this book WILL keep you up at night, waiting to get to that next page, chapter, section, ending. Greg and his friends grow as characters and people throughout this book, but there are no black and white good guys or bad guys. And that may be both the most difficult thing to handle AND the best part of this book. Does a culture of abuse excuse the abusers, if they were once the abused? Ask yourself this as you read.
Bottom line – get this book on the shelves in your local libraries and bookstores, especially in school districts with popular sports teams. There are kids out there who need to be reading and talking about this book, whether or not they’ve ever held a baseball bat, a football, or a lacrosse stick.
Press Play is one of those game-changing books that will forever alter the way you look at things. Make sure this book is accessible to teens, and get them talking about it.
Eric Devine’s author site has links to his other books, along with a schedule for his book tour. There’s also a link to the Press Play book trailer, which I’m also featuring here.