Mick lives for football. He always has - even as a little kid. Maybe he loved it at first because his father played in the NFL, maybe it was because it was something him and his dad played together, or maybe it was because he was so good at it. Regardless, at some point he started loving the game for the game. Only now that he's made the varsity team he's finding out that his natural talent might not be enough. At least not enough to be a starter - which he always has been until now. The temptation is deep. Should Mick work hard and just accept that he might not be good enough or will he succumb to the pressure and do whatever it takes to start?
I'm not giving anything away by saying Mick gives into the pressure. He decides that he needs to be bigger, stronger, faster, and the only way to do that is to take steroids. At first he thinks it will only be until he makes the team, but then what happens if he goes off them? How does he maintain his gains?
I've read a lot of sports fiction the past couple of years (way more than this non-sports fan would ever have predicted she would have read if I'm going to be perfectly honest although I will say Ive enjoyed quite a few of them) and so I wasn't sure how this one would stack up. Usually steroids are in the book, but the main character abstains - its another character, usually a villain type that ends up taking steroids and then flaring out in a fit of roid rage to demonstrate "just say no" and you'll be fine. So I was surprised (pleasantly so) that this book had the main character give in to the pressure put on to him by his father and by himself. It blows my mind that steroids have invaded high school, however it is a fact and so I thought Mick's character was very true to life. He's not a bad kid, he's actually a pretty good one, but he's weak. He wants his dream so badly that he's willing to throw his morals and potentially his future out the window. He knows he's cheating and making poor choices, but it feels inevitable. And once he's started he finds out how hard it is to stop. Dueker doesn't demonize him, but he does use Mick's character to prove a point. Steroids will mess you up. If its not one way it'll be another, but don't fool yourself, they're not a quick easy fix for getting strong.
I liked Gym Candy quite a bit. It has lots of really good action on the field and deals with the emotional struggles of Mick with sensitivity and manages to avoid heavy handed moralizing. A good sports book, your football fans will enjoy it.