Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review: Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed A Town (St. John)

Outcasts United introduces teen readers to the plight of refugees seeking asylum in the USA. Great for helping to develop empathy.Whoa, I didn't expect to like this at all. But I did!

AUTHOR: Warren St. John
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Spiegel & Grau
PUBLICATION DATE: April 21, 2009
ISBN: 9780385522038
PAGES: 320
SOURCE: my library
GENRE: narrative nonfiction, sports
SETTING: Clarkston, Georgia; early-2000s to present-day
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS
SUMMARY: This is the true story of a soccer team made up of refugees from Africa, pulled together by a female Jordanian coach. The boys range in age from 8-17, and they all come from dire circumstances and poverty.

REVIEW: Well wasn't this a nice little surprise? I really did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I only read it because it's on our Battle of the Books list, and I signed up to write the questions for this book. I signed up back in September and have been putting it off ever since. Now, it's February, and I know someone will come calling for the questions any day now. Time to get started!

Outcasts United is written so that it's easy to get into. It's kind of a documentary-style book, where you have profiles of the students, their families, the town, and the coach that brought them all together. They encounter prejudice and fear from long-time residents, resistance from the city council, violence, and gangs. The boys on the team speak different languages and come from different countries and situations. Life in America isn't all rainbows and sunshine; many of the parents are single parents whose spouses are imprisoned in their home country or have been killed. They work low-paying factory jobs and constantly struggle to make ends meet.

My one criticism is the switch from first person in the introduction to third person for most of the rest of the book. I'm assuming this first person narrating the story is a reporter or journalist, but it is disjointed with the rest of the book. There's even a part in the middle where it switches back to first person briefly, then back to third person again. I didn't like that.

I know many schools and universities are using this book as a school-wide "one book" or as part of required reading lists. I'm really not a fan of forcing students to read specific titles, but if you are going to do that, this is a great choice for middle and high school students.

THEMES: refugees, soccer, overcoming challenges, perseverance

THE BOTTOM LINE: A must for any middle or high school library.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have two copies, and because it's a Battle of the Books title, they are frequently checked out.

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 4/5
  • Creativity: 4/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:
  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: medium--a father is beaten to death, a woman is mugged, a boy is shot in the face, gang violence, war violence
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none


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