CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 27. . . .March 24, 2017
Trolled. (Sports Stories).
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer & Co., 2016.
137 pp., trade pbk. & epub, $12.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4594-1142-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-1143-2 (epub).
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Libby McKeever.
“By the way,” said Andy, “if there’s anything else you need a hand with, I can take on some extra shifts.”
Mr. Patel laughed. “Andy, it’s June. And that means exam time for you. And the you have your practices. You surely don’t have time for more shifts.”
“I can fit them in, honest.”
Nothing was more important than qualifying for the nationals and getting to Edmonton.
Andy Kovacs is a great swimmer. Of all the kids in the COBRA swim club, he stands the best chance of making it to the Nationals to represent his club from Brampton, ON. His nickname, Tiger Shark, aptly sums up his swimming style and attitude towards other members on the team. “…I’m the fastest guy in the pool and when you race against me, I’ll devour you.”
Andy’s parents support his swimming, but there isn’t a lot of extra money to help fund a trip to Edmonton to compete. So, even before Andy’s swam to qualify, he took the fundraising into his own hands. He asks for extra shifts at the comic book store where he works, and, after a recent video of him surfing on a flutterboard in the pool goes viral, he starts a crowd-funding campaign.
But when it comes down to passing math, Andy is not so confident. His good friend, Enalyn, another swimmer at COBRA, offers to help him study, but when Andy won’t respect her choices and goals for swimming and won’t concentrate on math, she gives up. Without her support, Andy, a savvy computer user, changes the school contact email from his teachers and so his parents are unaware of his failing grade. He’s certain he will have qualified for the nationals before school is finished in June.
Andy’s overconfidence gets the better of him when two older swimmers from a rival club dare him to kiss Miriam Said after her swim at the qualifying meet. Miriam, a superstar in the pool, also happens to be Muslim. Her request to wear a swim hijab was rejected, and when Andy’s thoughtless prank is caught on video, there is a public outcry about Andy’s ‘insensitive’ and ‘abusive’ behaviour. He is banned from the nationals, kicked off the swim club and vilified in the press and social media.
For Andy, it is a steep learning curve as he realizes he needs to apologize not only to Miriam but to Enalyn, his teammates, his boss, his parents and followers in the virtual world. It is only then that he truly realizes the ramifications of his actions. When he understands what he needs to do, he can begin to get his life on track and earn back the respect of people he cares about.
Trolled is an important story in the current climate where cyber bullying is commonplace, anonymity allows people to say anything, and punishment often will far exceed the perceived crime. The story is told in part through Twitter feeds, YouTube references, Skype and emails notes, which are engaging and effective. By using social media as a story tool, Sandor graphically illustrates what the effects of ‘going viral’ can mean. It is also very telling of how social media can be used so quickly and cruelly to shame people and the devastating ripple effect it can have. Sandor has created a story that is current and relatable for readers.
Steven Sandor is an award-winning magazine editor, sports and music journalist, and young adult fiction writer.
Libby McKeever is the Youth Services Librarian at the Whistler Public Library, in Whistler, BC.
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