When a sinkhole puts twelve-year-old Paul Fisher's school out of commission, the vision-impaired goaltender joins the middle school of the inner city of Tangerine, thinking it a dream come true to play on their soccer team. In the process, he learns about school barriers, makes new friends, and gives of himself to make others' dreams come true. But no matter what he's doing, whether it is helping local farmers save their tangerine crop - the city's biggest product - or jumping in as a substitute to help his soccer team to victory, his older brother Eric seems to loom in the background, making life more difficult for him. Paul has feared Eric since he was very little but doesn't know exactly why. But now, when everything starts to go wrong, he begins to remember...
A twelve-year-old boy asks another boy if he wants to date a female classmate.
Two girls call a twelve-year-old boy to ask if he likes one of them. (The boy says nothing.)
A girl puts her arm around a boy at a funeral. She is referred to as his girlfriend.
A boy teases another boy by saying, "Your mother buys your jockstrap."
A boy agrees that a girl is cute. (No sexual intent.)
A boy teases another boy by asking if his best friend is his "boyfriend." The friends are very angry at this remark.
It is considered normal that footbal players must date cheerleaders.
A twelve-year-old girl calls a boy to ask him out on a date. (He agrees but ends up not following through.)
Children flee from a flood. Other children are trapped in a sinkhole. (Children claim some received broken arms and legs, but everyone is saved with no serious injuries.)
There is brief mention at a carnival freak show of an "axman" who murdered people.
A bigger boy pushes a smaller boy against a locker as he walks down a school hallway.
Children are aggressive in a soccer game, including talking angrily to each other, punching each other, or tripping each other. One boy smears mud in another boy's goggles. Some end up with bloody noses. One boy gets stitches. Other children throw acorns at the opposing team.
Description of a teenage boy being struck by lightning, killing him. Other boys cruelly laugh and call the dead boy names.
A boy is convinced his brother is trying to kill him with a baseball bat. (His brother hits a mailbox instead.)
A boy describes another middle school by saying that it has "gangs with guns."
The sound of a football being kicked over and over is likened to a big guy punching a little guy.
A teenage boy hits a younger boy across the head, almost knocking him unconscious.
A teenage boy hits an adult with a blackjack, ultimately killing him because of a brain aneurysm.
A boy looks forward to a scary teenager getting beat up.
Description of two boys kicking teenagers in the stomach and face, bloodying and breaking one's nose.
A boy jumps on a teacher to free another student.
Two teenage boys threaten a younger boy with a baseball bat. They hit the dirt and tell him he's going to pay. (They don't end up hurting him.)
Two boys spray paint a little boy's eyes, almost blinding him.
Two teenage boys have swollen and puffy faces from being beat up.
A woman sits with her chin in her hands and it is described as if she were "holding her severed head up with her hands."
A star soccer player repeatedly teases other boys, calling them names and insulting them.
Children and teens are made fun of or insulted and are called things like: idiot, geek, jerk, butthead, sucker, loser, and fool ("Shut up, fool"), pathetic, wuss, and creep.
"Punch them out"
"What the h***."
"I will kill you!"
Two instances of God's Name in vain. "Thank God" is used twice without any intent on seriously being grateful to the Lord.
Christian Principles: Minimum
While there were no actual mentions of Jesus, the Bible, or anything involving religion, besides one Catholic funeral where the main character and his family felt awkward and out of place, it was refreshing to read about such an upright protagonist. During the whole novel, main character Paul Fisher does not seem to do anything wrong, but makes the right choices in almost every single situation. The only times we see him sin at all are when he:
A. doesn't tell his parents enough about what is going on. (Although, given his history and his fears, you understand why. He also ends up seeing the error of this in the end.)
B. takes matters into his own hands. (This is because of his loyalty and love for the underdog. And even though his motives were pure, we still see severe consequences for this - accurately showing that mistakes done with a good heart are still punished as mistakes.) And
C. desires to be respected by being feared by others. (Something that he mentions in passing that would be surprising if it were acted on.)
Even when one of the richer kids, Paul's friend Joey, rejects the poorer children at the new school, Paul defends them while continuing to be kind to the erring friend, letting Joey go his own way but continuing to do what is right himself. We also see Paul neglected by his father in favor of his older brother and confront his father without being bitter.
It's hard and saddening to read about such a scary older brother who would do such terrible things, but we see everyone receive justice in the end. At one point, the grandfather tells Paul's father that his oldest son needed help from a doctor. "I didn't want him to be one of those kids on drugs!" the father retorts. But the grandfather replies that he meant the kid needed more than he was getting, including a good spanking and discipline from the get go.
The moral truth of honesty is upheld in its finest when everyone, from the school quarterback to Paul's parents, end up confessing wrongdoing, making restitution, and vowing to tell the truth from then on. Direct Scripture is quoted: "The truth will set you free." Christian principles are kept throughout this whole story and Paul is an honorable role model.
Scripture Verses for Discussion:
Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 10:1, John 8:32, Philippians 2:3, Ephesians 4:32, James 5:16, John 14:6