Young Adult - Coming of Age
322 Pages
Reviewed on 10/16/2018
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

Reichfield High is comprised of mostly white students and over the past years it has lost almost all the games played against North Prep, a school frequented by mostly Brazilians, Filipinos, and Mexican students. To turn the tide, Addie and his white supremacist friends hatch a plan to stop the lead player from the opposite team from playing, so they are sure to win the game. But North Prep has something in store for them, a surprise no one saw coming: Shaylee, one of their best players ... a girl. Can Addie and his misogynistic friends accept defeat when it comes? Addie’s last desperate attempt to prove that Shaylee is a fraud leads to surprising outcomes that readers will want to discover.

An intriguing blend of racial conflict, wry humor, and a winding plot make for an enjoyable read in Blitzball by Barton Ludwig, a narrative with a strong appeal for fans of soccer and coming of age. The author plunges readers into the typical high school world and creates a conflict that involves race and white supremacist tendencies, a theme that is as relevant to our age and time as it is real. This is a novel that is both entertaining and educational, a story that powerfully demonstrates how success works with merit and not the shade of one’s skin. Barton Ludwig offers a scathing indictment of racial discrimination and creates a despicable character in Addie. Addie is mean, and the author uses his sarcastic, demeaning voice to create the grim humor, sarcasm, and irony that punctuate this narrative. Blitzball features great writing, compelling characters, and a plot that soccer fans will enjoy. It read to me like a sports movie.

Asher Syed

Blitzball by Barton Ludwig is the story of team rivalries between the Reichfield High and North Prep soccer teams. Where Reichfield High is almost exclusively white, North Prep has a culturally diverse student body of Hispanic, South American, and Asian students. The Reichfield High team has taken extraordinary – and terrible – measures to ensure a win against North Prep for the opening game. When the hoped-for outcome fails to materialize, Addie – a sexist white supremacist – sets out to destroy the female North Prep team member, Shaylee, discovering bits of himself along the way that may shatter all he knows to be true.

Barton Ludwig has written an intense piece of fiction with the timely release of Blitzball. The writing is engaging and clean, with characters that have been fully fleshed out and feel perfectly authentic (particularly in their imperfect viewpoints and personalities). It takes an extremely skilled writer to make a reader actually connect with a character like Addie, and it certainly doesn't happen in the onset. It's the slow unveiling, the peeling away of layers by Ludwig, that make this virtually impossible feat entirely possible...creating the uncomfortable dynamic that I imagine was the author's intent: forcing us to step back and take a deeper look at centuries of conditioning that create these issues. At the same time, Ludwig unapologetically affirms the darkest, ugliest corners of our humanity while bringing to light the prospect of redemption that is always within arm's length. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for an immersive read wrapped up in a brilliant coming of age story.

Grant Leishman

Reichfield High may be a fictional place in Barton Ludwig’s Blitzball, but to the predominately white, Aryan residents of the town of Upper Reichfield, the school and more importantly its soccer team is the focus of their pride, their hopes, and their dreams. Unfortunately, Upper Reichfield’s soccer team, spearheaded by Addie and his motley collection of oddball team-mates, is on a real losing streak. Their nemesis is the Lower Reichfield, North Prep School, which is predominately populated by immigrants, a collection of Mexican, Brazilian and Filipino students. When Reichfield High is beaten again by North Prep and, to add insult to injury, their team is led by a girl, Shaylee, Addie determines to discover what black magic this girl is using to always beat up on their beloved team. What Addie discovers when he delves into Lower Reichfield will surprise and shock him, challenging all his preconceived notions of Aryan supremacy and the purpose of his life.

Blitzball, I suspect, is intended as a comedic parody and in that it does perform extremely well. Author Barton Ludwig, by ludicrously stretching our imaginations and challenging our prejudices, gives us a possible insight into our world today. Many of the situations and ingrained prejudices highlighted in this story have direct parallels with the rise of populism and nationalism that appears to be currently sweeping the Western world. I’m not 100% sure if that was the author's intent, but in many ways this story does smack us in the face and remind us that the veneer of western civilization is indeed very thin and we don’t have to look far to see what evil can occur when “good men do nothing.” I found Ludwig’s writing style very suited to the nature of the material. It is potentially aimed at the Young Adult market and at its core it is a “coming of age” story that will resonate within the hearts of many of its readers who have also suffered the taunts, bullying, and unreasonable prejudices of their peers. I enjoyed the story, which did at times make me chuckle, and can definitely recommend it as something outside the mainstream of young adult literature.

K.C. Finn

Blitzball is a coming of age young adult tale written by author Barton Ludwig. With some very interesting allusions to race, class, gender and historical versus modern day attitudes, this tale revolves around a sports team led by central character Addie. Addie attends the predominantly white Reichfield High, and his supremacist attitudes are only encouraged by the company he keeps. Their rivals, North Prep, are a multicultural school who have been consistently winning games against Addie’s team. So when Addie makes a plan to disable the North Prep captain, he’s shocked to discover the replacement player, Shaylee, is even more capable. When Addie sets out to get to the bottom of why a girl is allowed to play on the all-male North Prep team, his misogyny and hubris lead him to a shocking revelation about himself.

I think Barton Ludwig has done something very clever indeed with Blitzball. Bringing the racial tensions of Nazi Germany to life in a totally new, contemporary context is no mean feat, but Ludwig really captures the spirit of the old ways of believing in this chilling, thrilling tale. In an age where political correctness, acceptance and love are proposed to be the norm, the relationship that develops between Addie and Shaylee sheds light on modern attitudes which are still prevalent in certain circumstances, and the book’s choice of perspective gives us an opportunity to see how those kinds of minds are wired. I’d definitely recommend Blitzball for all readers, teen and upwards, as a riveting, eye-opening work of socially-conscious fiction.

Edith Wairimu

Blitzball by Barton Ludwig follows the life of a young man. We first meet Addie in his late teens. His attitude is just wrong. He is arrogant, narcissistic, rude and selfish. Addie attends Reichfield High. He is part of the soccer team in his school alongside Thomas, a friend of his with a similar attitude and views on life. As his team constantly loses, Addie comes up with a plan after the failure of their protests against a girl being part of their opponents' team. His idea is to follow her around, get to learn why Shaylee is so good, and destroy what makes her shine. But he is in for a rude shock when his plan turns against him. Probably, though, it is for the best as he gets to learn a thing or two about himself.

Told through Addie’s viewpoint, Blitzball by Barton Ludwig is related uniquely. The antagonist gets a strong say in the narrative. This style of writing helped me better understand Addie’s standpoint on many matters. It brought out his character effectively. There is also a lesson behind it all, though possibly brought out a bit too late in the story. Ludwig’s language is quite descriptive. He describes the characters’ physical attributes seen from Addie’s point of view. As the main character, a lot of focus is on him. I liked that the conflict and questions in Addie’s mind also showed up many times. His fears and what made him break were hinted at even at times when he maintained a tough, unconcerned and cocky exterior.