For a kid's book, I was a bit surprised at how readable and engrossing I found it (I'm in my 20's). Paul is a smart kid, crazy about soccer and a bit cynical but with an open mind and a good heart. Paul is Ashlee Simpson to his older brother's Jessica Simpson, and this book is the song "Shadow" without all the angst. And that's one of the reasons I liked him so much. He's aware of his older brother getting more attention, especially from his father, and being able to get away with everything, but he doesn't wallow in too much misery over it. Paul has his own dreams, his own passions, and he knows that not only does he have his own skills in school and on the soccer field, but as he grows over the course of the book, also the character and integrity that will take him far in life. But this isn't your light-hearted middle grade book. Bloor brings up issues about race, social class and death I mean, two characters died. Died! And each one hit me over the head. Especially Luis. that I wasn't really expecting, and he gives characters a chance to really show themselves so that I grew to understand them, even if only to pity them. Is Erik really the villain of the story, or is his character due to poor parenting? Is it Paul's parents fault for heaping high praise on his football skills without also teaching him humility? I may ridicule Paul's Mom for caring so much about whether the mailboxes on the street are complimentary, but when she says something like, "Paul, I'm talking as somebody who never, ever, lived in a nice house growing up. Or even lived anywhere near a nice house. This is not a joke to me. Your house is your family's biggest investment. And you have to protect that investment."
I understand where she's coming from. Life is grey and messy, full of open-minded people and ignorant people and sometimes tragedy occurs, and this book acknowledges that.