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Friday, April 19, 2013

Second Impact

This galley, set to be released in August 2013, is by brother and sister David and Perri Klass.

        I was told that two other people (who happen to be athletes) wanted to take out this book before I nabbed it. We were all drawn to it for the same reason: concussions. I myself had a concussion that lasted for months a couple years ago, so this book immediately interested me.
The title is coined after Second Impact Syndrome (SIS) which is where the brain swells after receiving a second trauma when it is still recovering from a previous trauma. It can quickly lead to death, especially without emergency treatment. A frustrating part is that the only emphasis on SIS concerning the plot in the book is literally at the fifteenth-to-last-page. I counted. You have to read 264 pages before you breach the issue as proposed by the title. Grrr.
        This book is told through the perspective of two bloggers, Jerry (high school football megastar) and Carla (a high school  journalist). Together, they alternatively relate key events revolving around Jerry's high school football experience in a typical town in New Jersey. While Carla does have her little side-story about an ACL tear a year back, she doesn't seem contribute anything else to the book except providing convenient ways to add more information about sports injuries. She's not much of a do-er in the book. Essentially, she is the cheerleader. Jerry is the real point of this story. He's the do-er. Carla is the try-er, who tired to do something and ultimately was completely shut down. I don't want to spoil it, so I won't say much. Carla had great points and was a protagonist of the story with a motive and I was disappointed that her cause lead to nowhere and was punished while Jerry, the football star, ultimately had no real issues and was successful overall.
        In the book, the whole universe is centered around Jerry and football. The imaginary town it's set in, Kendall, is of those places that are crazily obsessed with male-dominated high school sports. I didn't like that. One, because I don't like football all that much or the kinds of people associated with it, and two, because in my life such all-encompassing obsession is beyond unrealistic. It boggled my mind, really. Concord is like other small New England towns; you go to the game if you're the parent, sibling, personal friend of a football player, or if you're playing in the band. In this book if you could breathe, walk, and talk you went to every game to scream yourself hoarse. If you couldn't go, you watched it on TV.
        Jelle suggested that this book is geared towards a more football-focused demographic and I was just the wrong person to pick up this book. I agree, I  can imagine that some places among the states can take their football teams very seriously (but I think it's a flaw that not everyone can relate to or at least come to understand a situation in a book; limited audience normally doesn't come to great success). Later, I happened to notice through some research that the Klasses used to live in New Jersey. Coincidence? Maybe. I don't think so. My hunch was confirmed when I found that their hometown of Leonia shares the same team name as the protagonists in the book: the Tigers. It looks like the Klasses were sentimental to their hometown, like many authors are. I decided to find out if there was really something strange going on in New Jersey. As it turns out, it looks pretty normal from my standpoint.
        In a video clip of the Tigers of Leonia football game for the semifinal state championship in 2012, there was a smattering of 50 people in the visitor's stands. This does not correlate at all with the 5,000+ fans that show up for every game in the book. I don't know what setting the Klasses were trying to base the book on, but it's based on nowhere around here. I will continue to think the setting presented in the book is absolutely bonkers until I stand corrected.

That was a pretty long-winded nit picking of just a few problems in the book. I don't want to drag on for too long, so here are my main points about this book in a shorter form.

The book was written like a web blog; each new post carries on the story, but I saw quite a few problems:
1- Carla and Jerry are too public for it, with awkwardly personal details. You just wouldn't go that far.
2- Their avatars are pictures of models, like you'd see in chic lit. I did not appreciate this. This is not bad chic lit (or at least it shouldn't be). I recognize that cover art and other things like it are not controllable by the authors, but it is certainly controllable by the readers. I am a reader, and I did not like those pictures. Publishers and agents, you better change that (pictures of scenery, abstract shapes, logos, or no avatars at all is acceptable).
3- They are amazingly precise in their blog posts for events that they are recounting from memory.
4- I think writing this book in the typical omnipresent or point-of-view format would have been better than the web blog format. Then we can see personal feelings as they are thinking about what is happening, have a better connection with the characters, and the issue of high detail would have been fixed.
5- There were some 'posted comments' at the end of some of the 'blog posts' to keep the book inside the blog format idea. They were HORRENDOUSLY cheesy. UGH. Just sooooo fake. And whenever a comment was 'deleted' by a moderator, that was even worse.

More issues! Yay!
-Huge problem! A lot of the information is worthless. When I got bored, I skipped paragraphs at a time without losing the plot. I just skipped forwards until it looked like it reached the real point.
-Football has more sexism issues than I can shake a stick at and every person in Kendall revolves around it. I protest!
-I really, REALLY dislike what happened to Carla. Her rights were suppressed and nothing was done about it. If I wrote this book, the ACLU would have gotten involved faster than you can read 'freedom of speech.'
-Jerry basically recounted the same story every time he went to play a football game. It became predictable.
-Like I said before, SIS is only addressed at the end.
-Contrary to what a character mentions as fact in this book, people may not know if they blacked out from a head injury. I was knocked unconscious and I didn't realize it until months later. However, I mean no disrespect to Dr. Perri Klass if she found a legitimate source for that information.
-I felt that the message that athletes should not ever play, ever, with a concussion was played down. It's super important that they should sit out. If they don't, their lives are on the line. I was expecting a message like "Don't play sports with a concussion, end of story." Instead the moral seems to be "We shouldn't tell those kids not to play with a concussion because then we won't win the championship... But they can sit out of the game if their friends think they should."
-I have the feeling that while Jerry and Carla are individuals, they aren't very filled out. They seem shallow. Jerry is Jerry and will always act like "Jerry".

To summarize all of those cons: while head injuries are the prime focus of this book, I think the narration was awkwardly split between two viewpoints that were often cheesy, forgettable, inappropriately written for public web space and with an unsatisfactory conclusion.

-It does provide some good info on concussions and severe head injuries.
-It does consider what an athlete might think or feel when they have concussions or injuries in different situations along with the pressure to keep playing, and (only at the end) stresses the importance of your health over play (though rather short and not as stressed as I would like it to be).

That's not a lot of good stuff to balance out the bad. Thus, my rating is justified: 2 out of 5 stars. If this was a food, it would be cafeteria shepard's pie. I like shepard's pie, so I'd buy it. I'd taste the canned peas, observe questionable quality ground beef flavored only with heat from the not-fresh black pepper, and the dry mashed potatoes. And I would realize that it wasn't that good and I should have spent my three dollars on a salad or soup.

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