Book Review: Press Play

Press Play by Eric Devine
Release Date ~ October 28, 2014
Running Press Kids
ISBN13: 9780762455126
e-galley received from publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads Synopsis:
Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.
Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.
Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities.

Press Play is not the typical book I choose to read. But this is a case where I'm grateful that I branched out from my preferred reading picks and tried something different, because Press Play was a pleasantly unexpected read for me.

It's a contemporary read which is much more male-oriented than I'm used to (main character is a teenaged guy, and many of the other characters are male although not all. And it's written by a male author) and it deals with particularly relevant issues for teens in 2014. Not only that, but the main character, Greg, isn't the type of male character I'm used to reading.

  1. Greg's an interesting character to read about:

    In many ways, he seems like a very ordinary teenaged guy. He's far from perfect - fairly self-centred most of the time, with his own insecurities and frustrations. He's interested in girls and doesn't know how on earth to act around them. But at the same time, he's also unusual and different which makes life harder for him. Greg's overweight and on a quest to change that - he's making different food choices and working out with a friend. In many other modes of entertainment, there's "that fat guy" who's just a joke - people are either laughing because he's funny or they're laughing AT him. But with Greg, the reader has an insider's perspective as we experience so many of his embarrassing moments and struggles with his image and trying to take control of his body.
  2. An up-close view of bullying:

    We all know that bullying is a real problem. And we've likely all experienced it at one point or another in or lives (to some extent). Press Play looks at a very serious case of bullying (and hazing) and Greg's attempts to change that. But it also offers a very thoughtful perspective on how we can all do and say things that hurt others - and why it's so important that we recognize that and deal with it. 
Some of the imagery (depictions of events) and language used is rather crude - I point that out as a warning, not a criticism. I had no problem with it, because it always felt genuine and true to the character and his story. But I understand not all readers will be a fan of that. 

Press Play is a surprisingly dark story. The struggles these characters encounter are HEAVY - and in a few instances, I felt like I needed to see further resolution to feel reassured. For the most part, however, I thought the issues were handled well considering this is a standalone book tackling a whole spectrum of real life problems.

This is the kind of book that I believe is important because it's going to appeal to readers who may not be big fans of reading in general and are looking for a different type of book. I think it's realistic presentation of certain high school situations and characters is also going to appeal to readers who can appreciate that which is what makes Press Play worth reading.

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