Off Track

Blouse & Skirt. Oct. 2020. 272p. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9789768267320.
Gr 6 Up–Rising teenage track stars Kayla Francis and Joel de Freitas have various personal problems in their home of Trinidad. But running is the answer for both of them, a shared passion that could lead to fresh starts, sponsorships, and stability. Kayla hopes to provide for her single mother and two sisters, while Joel wants to make his own name and emerge from the shadow of his father, a former runner whose career ended early. Gibson alternates chapters between Kayla and Joel’s points of view, switching between the driven, closed-off female and confident but cautious male superstar. The pair approaches key competitions while navigating a closer relationship with one another, balancing complicated family dynamics, and keeping away from the pressures of their island community. Vivid characterization, Trinidadian dialect, mild romance, and descriptions of abuse and abandonment combine for an intense but realistic read. The depiction of sports as a solution and how one moment can change everything will ring true for teenagers of many backgrounds.
VERDICT Recommended as an additional purchase in collections where sports fiction is appreciated.

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