Book Review: Payback Time by Carl Deuker

I’m not a sports fan by far. I like NASCAR and I love tennis, but that is the extent of my passion right there. NASCAR I watch on occassion, and tennis is an obsession. I have just about every book that comes out about my favorite players and the history of the sport. So when it comes to football? … well, I say my team is the Dallas Cowboys, but really, I never watch it.

(I don’t even watch the Superbowl… not even for the commercials anymore…)

So I picked up Payback Time by Carl Deuker for my students, thinking the boys would love the book. I decided to read it so that I could actually recommend it to my kids without saying… yeah no idea what it’s about.

Boy, am I glad I did.

The blurb from the back of the book: A reporter’s job is to find the missing pieces, and high school journalist Mitch True is on the verge of uncovering those pieces and nailing his first real story. If only he can get cornerback Angel Marichal to talk. Or Coach McNulty to explain why he never allows Angel’s obvious talent – his speed and strength – to shine on the field. What is Angel’s secret? And who profits from keeping the truth hidden?

In a thriller both though-provoking and suspenseful, the award-winning author Carl Deuker shows how investigating someone else’s life can lead to startling discoveries.

My first thoughts before reading the book: I’ll admit, I started thinking of possibilities before I even started the book. I tried to think why a coach would bench a good student. First I thought Angel was gay and the coach was homophobic. Or maybe Angel was caught using steroids and the coach benched him because of that. I wasn’t sure.

My review: This book absolutely blew my expectations out of the water. Mitch is a likeable character and very believable, as is Kimi, his photographer sidekick. The two know there is a story, but they have to dig deep to get it. What I loved about the two is how hard they work to get the story. But the problem is, once they think they know what they have, they don’t explore all the aspects. They are flawed, and that makes them very relatable for students. Mitch and Kimi are so sure they have the whole story, but when they confront Coach McNulty they find out they are incredibly wrong, and their assumptions could lead to a very dangerous end for all involved.

Payback Time does have a lot of football in it; Mitch becomes the sports writer for his school paper, and he discusses each play of the games. However, despite not knowing what most of the terms meant, I still found the book enjoyable and got caught up in the excitement of each game. I wanted to find out Angel’s story just as badly as Mitch and Kimi, and the book does not disappoint. I thought I had it figured out halfway through the novel, but the author has a great twist at the end.

Readers who like sports, mysteries or suspense novels should enjoy this one. Even if you’re not a fan of football, check this book out. It’s about more than just sports.

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