Annie Boots is a 17-year-old high school student who is living two lives. She has her life with her foster family, the Howards and their son Marvin, and then there’s her life of sneaking around to see her biological mother and half-sister Shelia. To accomplish seeing her bio family Annie uses the sports she competes in during the summer as their secret rendezvous sites. It’s not long until Annie learns that Pop Howard has known all long of these meetings. But this is the least of Annie’s worries.
As mentioned, Annie plays in summer sports, and the book opens with her sport of choice being basketball. But right now, her team is in the loser’s bracket.
Loser Bracket is defined as such
The first-round winners proceed into the W bracket and the losers proceed into the L bracket. The W bracket is conducted in the same manner as a single-elimination tournament, except that the losers of each round “drop down” into the L bracket. (Source google.com)
This can also be said of Annie’s place in her bio family.
THE LOSER BRACKET
Annie has been in foster care since she was in the single-digit age but was lucky enough to be placed with the Howards. Her sister, Shelia, wasn’t so lucky. Shelia wasn’t lucky in the families she was placed in nor the number of time she had to move. Their mother, Nancy, is a drug-addict and shoplifter who choose drugs over her daughters. Shelia is the apple that didn’t fall far from the tree. Annie, on the other hand, is the apple that fell from the tree, but somehow was able to roll away.
Shelia has a five-year-old son named Frankie who is suffering the same fate Shelia did with regards to his mother choosing drugs over him. However, Frankie, thus far, has not ended up in the system and if Annie has anything to do with it, he won’t.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF FRANKIE
When Annie switches to swimming (her choices of sports are more of a coping mechanism than a choice) it’s during one of the swim meets that Frankie disappears during a chaotic scene caused by her mother Nancy and sister Shelia. Through the search for Frankie we are introduced to Walter, Nancy’s latest boyfriend, and according to Annie, the most decent one.
PRE-SPIRAL AND POST-SPIRAL
The books open with Annie at one of the basketball games and the loser bracket her team is part of, mostly because of her. We are introduced to three of her friends Hannah, Mariah, and Leah, but it’s Leah who is seen throughout the book. Marvin, the Howards biological son, age 13, is also part of Annie’s life. He’s a well-adjusted kid who prefers books to sports. Because of this, his father, Pop Howard, thinks his son might be gay. As Marvin puts it when it comes to Annie, “she’s the son he father wished Marvin was.” We are privy to Annie’s life through the eyes of Annie, which is one thing I loved about the book. I enjoy books written in the first person for it helps me experience what the protagonist is experiencing. When it comes to Annie’s counseling sessions, it is seen through the eyes of Emily.
After Frankie’s disappearance, Annie begins to spiral more out of control. Throughout the book, we wonder if the parachute will open or not for Annie.
We’re taken on a journey of Annie Boot’s life beginning with the summer of her soon-to-be-senior. Along the way, we’re introduced to a cast of characters. These characters, which include her foster brother Marvin and her friend Leah.
Chris Crutcher has a way of finding the teenage voice in his stories. And as a male who writes from a female’s perspective on things, he does a great job. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. Chris makes us think about our own lives, regardless if we are teenagers ourselves or into our adulthood thinking about our teenage years because of this story.
I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone along with Athletic Shorts which is a compilation of short stories by Chris Crutcher. Athletic Shorts was my first introduction to Crutcher’s work via an email I received on recommended reading. Since reading that book I’ve become a fan. I plan on reading other books by Chris but was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Losers Bracket before it’s release on 3 April 2018.
You may pre-order Losers Bracket by clicking on the book’s title Losers Bracket.
Losers Bracket is 256 pages published by Greenwillow Books, part of Haper Collins / pubished date 3 April 2018
I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.