Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Review: Cross Country 101 by Dan Martinez

One thing that I don't cover too often on this blog - OK, never, actually - is reading. Well, I just finished reading Cross Country 101 by Dan Martinez, which is a novel set at a Southern California high school. Why am I telling you this? Because the story centers around a high school freshman who joins the cross-country team. The target audience seems to be pretty much the same as this blog, which is, more or less, 7th-10th graders.

I really enjoyed the book. At first, I was suspicious that it was going to be an overly corny kid-with-football-dad-gets-bullied-but-succeeds-in-XC type of book. While it's true that that pretty much sums up the basic storyline, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't overly corny - indeed, it wasn't corny at all. Despite an intended audience much younger than I, I found myself entirely engaged with the story, and even rooting strongly for Eric, the protagonist. As I got deeper into the book, I found myself reading faster and faster, as if I were training and racing with Eric, and it was harder and harder to put it down each day.

I found some parts of the story foreign because I neither experienced nor observed any kind of bullying when I was in high school. I also never found that upperclassmen were mean or even unkind to the freshmen. This is also the case at the high school where I coach now - the coaching staff is constantly on the lookout for bullying and even guys or girls being less than nice toward each other. We're lucky we don't seem to have these problems. The parents I know are all very supportive of their sons and daughters running cross-country, too. In the book, Mr. Martinez handles it all very well, and it's great to see the team come together, as well as Eric's father get on board with seeing cross-country as a "real" sport.

Finally, if you have ever run at the State Meet course at Woodward Park in Fresno/Clovis, you will appreciate Mr. Martinez's accurate depiction of it in the book. I have never been to Mt. SAC, but he clearly knows what he's writing about for that course, too. Being able to visualize parts of these actual courses as Eric and the rest of the team race there is great fun and helps to draw you into the story.

Finally, I definitely finished the book hungry for more stories about Eric - what happens in his sophomore year? Junior year? Senior? Does he get recruited and run in college? This is a character that I found I really cared about, and I think you will enjoy reading Cross Country 101 as well.

Available on Amazon: Click Here

Dan Martinez's web site: Click Here

No comments:

Post a Comment