Play Like a Girl

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Sept. 2022. 272p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780063064690. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780063064683.
Gr 5-8–For fans of Shannon Hale and Jennifer Holm, this graphic novel memoir tackles middle school drama on the football field. Misty and her best friend, Bree, decide to join the seventh-grade football team, but they quickly learn that it’s not easy to tackle grumpy teammates on the field—or the perils of friendships in the classroom. With no administrative pressures in her way, the only things standing between Misty and her goals are the less-than-welcoming male teammates and her own self-esteem. While the illustration style is inviting and easy to sell to middle grade readers, and the story handles middle school conflicts like shifting friendships in a relatable way, the plot unfolds along a predictable arc, which could prevent readers from feeling fully invested.
VERDICT The depiction of football is well done and will be a big draw, but the familiar path of the plot lessens the emotional buy-in for readers. Give this to sports-loving fans of Shannon Hale, Jennifer Holm, Kayla Miller, and Raina Telgemeier.

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