Thursday, May 13, 2010

Raiders Night by Robert Lipsyte

Matt and his fellow football players enter the gym, pound metal, and then head for the back room for their injections. In the opening sceene of Raider's Night, you are delivered a world in which kids are willing to do just about anything to win -- and the coaches and parents are willing co-conspirators.

Riding an emotional roller coaster -- partially caused by the drugs, partially caused by the tough, warlike jock culture that keeps him cut off from his feelings and from connecting with any girlfriend -- team co-captain Matt goes off to football camp, eager to focus on the game. Only a harrowing hazing gone wrong makes him question everything that's made life worth living.

No mere football book, Lipsyte's gripping and at times terrifying novel is a serious critique of macho masculinity. This is a deep, powerful read about all the things that can keep boys and men focused on the strength of the body at the expense of the soul.

This was a class assignment, and I assumed I wouldn't be interested. Boy, was I wrong.

Bibliotherapeutic value: Though shocking at times, this is a brilliant exploration of sports/guy culture. It sends a strong message to the reader that friendship is more important than fighting and winning. Underneath it all, there's a sense that Matt's main problem is that he can't acknowledge his own feelings -- rather than making him a winner, it's threatening to undermine his entire life.

Lipsyte, Robert. Raiders Night. New York: HarperTempest, 2006. 

ISBN 0-06-059946-4. $15.99.   

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