Wattpad. Mar. 2023. 320p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781989365083.
Gr 9 Up–While covering her Southern California college’s multimillion dollar football team for the school newspaper, reporter Laurel Cates hears rumors about the coach’s drinking, womanizing, and worse that contradict his public image as a leader and a recovering alcoholic. That she and campus hottie Bodie St. James, starting quarterback, cross paths from the first pages of the book means Marchant knows how to set up a pleasant tension between these two against the backdrop of a potentially bigger story—and an explosive accusation. Bodie has always trusted Coach Vaughn. Attracted to Laurel, he’s impressed by her journalistic integrity, but agreeing to be her source may upend his identity as a star athlete. Although the Daily’s investigation enrages Vaughn’s defenders, subjecting Laurel to hazing and harassment, her bond with other women of color is strong. They have her back, while also supplying essential jokes—and tacos. Laurel, whose mother is Mexican, speaks fluent Spanish; best friend Hanna is Vietnamese; and Mehri, a senior reporter who helps Laurel solidify hearsay into the Daily’s scoop, is Iranian. They’re not perfect—Hanna drinks too much and Mehri works too hard—but that’s what makes them believable. Journalism also gets its props in this entertaining, explicit novel. Laurel and friends believe in truth and justice. Fake news be damned.
VERDICT Explicit sexual references, binge drinking, and an off-campus drag show provide a realistic backdrop to college life as student reporter Laurel investigates criminal allegations against the head football coach. Enthusiastically recommended.

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