Reviews for Gym Candy

Booklist Reviews 2007 September #1
Having grown up in the shadow of his father's failed NFL career, high-school football player Mick Johnson is determined not to make the same mistakes. But when he's tackled just short of the goal in a pivotal game, he decides that vitamin supplements aren't enough and begins purchasing "gym candy," or steroids, from the trainer at his local gym. His performance starts breaking records and his father couldn't be more proud, but along with gains in muscle, he suffers "'roid rage," depression, and unsightly acne. When his secret finally comes out, he attempts suicide. Even after therapy, Mick is left wondering if he'll continue to be tempted by steroids. Deuker skillfully complements a sobering message with plenty of exciting on-field action and locker-room drama, while depicting Mick's emotional struggles with loneliness and insecurity as sensitively and realistically as his physical ones. Pair this solid addition to the sports fiction shelf with John Coy's Crackback (2005). Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #5
Mick Johnson lives, breathes, eats, sleeps (insert any similar verb here) football. But Deuker's protagonist isn't a stereotypically dimwitted jock. He's a complex character who evolves, as Deuker reveals detail by painful detail, from a four-year-old kid who loves playing football with his father to a teenage steroid junkie who won't be second best. Deuker makes it clear that Mick walks into steroid use with his eyes wide open. He knows about all the side effects, from nipple puffiness and acne to the more serious 'roid rage and depression -- and he winds up experiencing them all. When a teammate discovers his stash of "gym candy," Mick reaches his breaking point and grabs a gun to resolve the matter. The story's tight focus is its real strength -- subplots are few and are linked to football -- mirroring Mick's single-minded focus on the sport. He has no time for girls, no time for friends. And Deuker doesn't wimp out with an everything-turns-out-peachy-keen ending. Instead, Mick lands in rehab, where he says all the right things to the counselors but still longs for the juice. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 August #1
Mick Johnson wants to be a star running back. He's good, but not good enough. The trouble is the red zone, the 20 yards in front of the end zone, and he's not quite powerful enough to crunch his way in against big defenders. He begins working harder, lifting weights and taking protein powders, but progress is slow. He starts going to Popeye's gym, where his trainer introduces him to steroids--gym candy--and then to "stacks," mixes of pills and injections. This cautionary tale, told in first person, is a methodical working out of the psychology of the high-school athlete willing to do anything to gain an edge. It's a moral tale, too, as Mick realizes what he has lost for his gains. After almost killing a friend and himself and going through rehab, he understands the almost-irresistible lure of the drugs that promise to make him more than he could be on his own. A superb sports novel with no easy resolutions and a good match with Robert Lipsyte's Raiders Night (2006). (Fiction. 12-15) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 October

Gr 7-10-- Deuker tackles high school steroid use with his usual spot-on characterizations, exciting game-play descriptions, and an entirely credible depiction of one athlete's decision to use illegal substances to become bigger, faster, and stronger. Mick's earliest memories are of playing football with his dad, once a high school/college star running back and third-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers, but now a radio sidekick in Seattle. Learning the truth about his father's career--that he was a football bad boy who squandered his talent--motivates Mick to work harder than ever. He earns his place on the varsity as an incoming freshman but comes up short on the big play of the final game that season. Initially rejecting the offer of steroids from his personal trainer at the gym, Mick is eventually convinced to give it a shot, injecting XTR during the next season and becoming a touchdown-scoring machine. Deuker realistically portrays the paranoia, acne, and emotional roller-coaster that are side effects of steroid use and the constant pressure to win that drives some athletes to succumb to illegal drugs. The climax involving gun violence and the importance of friends who can back you up eerily parallels Robert Lipsyte's Raiders Night (HarperCollins, 2006), although minus that book's sexualized swagger; this one is pitched for a younger audience. The disturbing and powerful denouement will leave readers uncertain whether, even after having undergone residential substance-abuse counseling, Mick will be able to stay off the "juice."--Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA

[Page 148]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2007 October
Mick wants to blame his father for making football his life's focus, but it is only partly true. His dad has carefully planned his football career, even starting Mick in school a year late to give him a size advantage by high school as a running back. On the other hand, his mother does not even want to see the potentially violent and injurious football games. His good friends Drew and DeShawn want to excel at football also, but they were never driven like Mick. Mick was brought down just one foot from the goal line the previous season by an immense Foothill linebacker, so he works all summer to increase his size. He trains with weights to exhaustion and uses steroids to become a star, but in the end, he must accept that he does it for himself and that winning almost costs him his life and all that matters. He willingly puts up with the depression and rages that ensue. He gives up on a budding romance and on hanging out with his friends.This well-written work highlights the "bigger, stronger, faster" competitive culture to which Americans have been conditioned to subscribe in sports. Steroids have become commonplace, but this persuasive story is able to disseminate the facts and heartbreak of their use by showing what can happen to a driven, everyday guy. This story will make a great addition to both school and public libraries and an eye-opening recommendation to all budding athletes.-Ava Ehde 4Q 3P M J S Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.