Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Source: HarperTeen for Kismet Blog Tours
It’s senior year and the last season for Diggy, Jimmy, and Trevor on the Molly Pitcher High School varsity wrestling team. And they all want the same thing: to win.
But Diggy’s got to compete with his older brother’s legacy, and now he’s in danger of losing his spot to newcomer Trevor. Jimmy’s got the cops after him, and a girlfriend who looks down on him. Then Diggy does the unthinkable—he betrays a teammate. Can the team forgive him? And can he forgive himself?
Experience the pressure with Diggy, Jimmy, and Trevor as the stakes rise and loyalties splinter. They’ve got just one shot to make weight and get onto the mat. But pinning your opponent is about more than just winning.
Where I come from, wrestling isn’t just a sport, it’s a religion. Our small city can claim (and do we!) two Olympic silver medalists and we’re close to the top spot in State Championships won. Sure, football and basketball are interesting, but this town cares about its wrestling legacy, so even though the sight of cauliflower ear makes me want to cry, this book seemed like it would have a lot for me to relate to.
I’m not used to books told solely from a male perspective, especially three teenage boys, so this was quite an experience even outside of the story. The chapters alternate in no particular order between Diggy, Jimmy and Trevor and combined with the first person, present, POVs, I had a difficult time keeping everyone straight for a while, I have to say. It wasn’t until the three boys started having major conflicts with each other and in their lives that they, and the story, started to come together for me.
All three boys are struggling with family issues that affect their wrestling and relationships with each other in different ways. Diggy’s dad is always riding him to do better and be more like his older brother who was the best wrestler, but Diggy’s having all sorts of problems this year. He can’t make weight, his coach wants him to make changes and for the first time, he’s getting his butt kicked – by Trevor, last year’s junior varsity kid. After Trevor’s father died, he dedicated more of himself to wrestling and it shows, as his victory over Diggy proved. His home life with his mom has gone to hell though, since she’s met a skeevy motel owner and is changing everything for him. In between is Jimmy, the boy who’s betting his entire future on his wrestling season. If he can stay on top and out of trouble, he’s looking at a full ride to the college of his choice where he can do what he wants. Of course he has a not-so-clean dad who isn’t going to help him stay out of trouble.
Each boy’s story separately would have been enough to make a great book, but the three together felt like a trainwreck about to happen. With each chapter, each bad decision made by some characters against others and things that I could see were going to hurt a chapter or two down the line, I cringed and was afraid to keep turning the pages. Coughlin has a great ear for the tragic things teens can do to each other, which was great for the story, not so much for my nerves. I enjoyed the wrestling and training scenes quite a bit – even though I obviously am pretty familiar with what happens on the mat, the author did a great job describing it and I could practically hear the action.
It was very strange, reading a book and not knowing who to root for and what to do when I felt sorry for someone who was deliberately making destructive choices. I had no idea if there was going to be a happy ending for everyone or even anyone, so when I added everything up, from the boys, the perspectives and everything else, this was more of a leap of faith for me than I expected, but I’m glad I took it. I was unsettled when I finished it, with a lot of things running through my mind. This would be a great book to give to a freshman and let them hang on to it to re-read all through high school. There are quite a few great lessons about what not to do in it.
My Rating: B
Diary entry: October 23rd
Coach Grippo asked us to start a diary so that we could keep track of our training schedule. He said he’s going to review it before the first day of practice, but Jimmy told me, he never looks at it. I weighed myself today, exactly 153. My weight class is going to be 152, which already makes me shiver just thinking about it. Diggy Masters has OWNED, and I mean OWNED, this weight class for two years. So, I’m planning to hit the weight room at school. If I can’t pack on some pounds in a few weeks, I’m going head to head with Diggy.
Diary entry: October 25th
I lost a pound! I have been eating and working out nonstop and I actually lost a pound. My mother has been buying whole roasted chickens and I’ve been devouring them for dinner. It’s a lot of protein so I’m drinking plenty of water. I suppose I’ve got to stop running. Maybe I’m burning too many calories. I saw Diggy in the hall today with his Yankee hat off the side of his head and his sagging pants. He pointed at me like he was saying, “You’re next,” or something like that. My father always said he was “all show and no go.” I keep telling myself that.
Diary entry: October 27th
I didn’t work out today. It’s my father’s birthday. My mother and I bought a “blanket” made of ivy and flowers for the grave. I didn’t even know people made flowers for graves. Anyway, we drove to the cemetery. I know she has a lot on her mind and all she keeps telling me is “You’re going to hurt yourself.” “Put your hat on.” “Put your coat on.” She’s afraid I’m going to get sick. When my dad died so did our health insurance. She says it’s going to get figured out. I’m not so sure.
The cemetery made me think about my dad. He was a wrestler in high school. I should have asked him more questions about his seasons. I do know he wrestled varsity for two years and had a winning record. I know he always secretly dreamed of me being a varsity wrestler. I’ve been JV for the past three years, so I only have this one shot left. My mom and I cleared the leaves off the grave and spread the blanket of flowers. She had tears in her eyes, and so did I. But, all the time I was thinking, if I have to beat Diggy, then so be it.
About the author:
Coughlin’s first novel, The Hero of New York, was finished when he was 23 years old and explored the dark side of the middle class suburban dream. New York Times reviewer, Dennis Smith (1986) wrote, “The Hero of New York is solid tough-guy entertainment, and Mr. Coughlin’s descriptions can be hilarious.”
Coughlin’s second novel, Steady Eddie, is a coming-of-age story set in Long Island, New York in 1977. George Needham wrote “Coughlin neatly captures a person’s essence in the simplest gesture, but each character is drawn with sympathy and wit, even when the characters themselves lack these attributes. A fine novel.”
Coughlin has published short stories in Doubletake Magazine, the South Dakota Review and DUCTS, an on-line magazine. His story, “The Grief Committee” was analyzed in The Politics of Mourning: Grief Management in a Cross-Cultural Fiction. Coughlin”s poetry has appeared in The Dead Mule – School of Southern Literature and Hanging Moss Journal.
In 2012, Coughlin published his first YA novel, One Shot Away, A Wrestling Story, Harpercollins. The novel is the story of three high school wrestlers trying to balance their personal lives, family conflicts and maintain their weight class on the Varsity Squad.