It’s been well-documented that I’m on a quest for a quality sports-themed young adult novel, particularly one with a female main character.
Unfortunately, much of the time my enthusiasm for the newest sports book is immediately tempered by the sports serving as mere window dressing to bring the protagonist together with a Very Attractive Boy.
But I keep soldiering on, seeking one of these stories that really works. However, I almost passed on Liz Fichera’s debut, Hooked, which features a Native American girl in Arizona who makes a splash with her golf mastery while negotiating a burgeoning relationship with a boy on her team (I haven’t had great luck with Harlequin Teen titles). But, a short interview with Liz on Stacked piqued my interest and I thought I’d give it a try, and despite some flaws, it was a surprisingly compelling read.
Fredricka (Fred) Oday lives on the Gila reservation, which abuts the city of Phoenix, Arizona. Like many kids growing up on the reservation, Fred’s options after graduation are pretty limited. Except she’s got something special going for her: a killer golf game. She learned to play because her father works at the golf course. Over the years, she’s excelled to the point that her high school’s golf coach adds her to the boys varsity team (there isn’t a girls team).
However, despite her phenomenal skills on the golf course, she’s not welcomed with open arms. A player with a bad attitude and mediocre game, Seth, is removed from the team to make a space for Fred and the boys aren’t happy. They’re furious that a girl is on their team, but they are even more upset about a girl from the reservation on their team that replaced their buddy.
Then my eyes lowered to my seat, the empty one at the front of the row. There was a folded newspaper waiting on my desk, maybe the same one that Ryan had shown me in the library, and my stomach somersaulted all over again. Quickly, I placed my backpack underneath my desk and slipped into the seat. My smile faded when I found the photo on page three of the sports section, the same one where I was holding my driver on the fourth tee. Someone had used a black marker to draw a band around my forehead with feathers on each side. A crude Indian headdress. My nostrils flared and my breathing quickened. The photo turned cloudy the longer I stared at it. I had to swallow back the bile building deep in my throat. I folded and then crumpled the newspaper and stuffed it inside my backpack. I wanted to shred it into a million tiny pieces.
Despite the tensions among teammates, there’s chemistry between Fred and Ryan, the team’s other top golfer with whom she’s paired at tournaments.
Told in alternating points of view from both Fred and Ryan’s perspective, Hooked explores all of these tensions against a backdrop of the American southwest.