Raiders Night -- Robert Lipsyte
I wish the title had an apostrophe. Wouldn't Raiders' Night be better?
This one has apparently been somewhat controversial, though I haven't found anything about the controversy other than this article, which was written by the author. (That isn't to say that I don't believe he lost speaking engagements. After reading the book, I totally believe it. It's just worth noting where info comes from, know what I mean?)
Raiders Night is the story of senior Matt Rydek, a co-captain of the Nearmont High School varsity football team. In broad stokes, his life seems near-perfect -- He's being courted by lots of Division One colleges, he has a popular cheerleader girlfriend (who is very into sex), he has a great group of friends, and the team is gearing up for a winning season. But when you start to look a bit closer...
He always felt smaller around Dad, even now that he was taller than him.
Just want to get through this year and out of town, and away from him. Matt's chest and shoulders were aching from the workout. Some beer and Vicodin would fix that. Then the last party before hell.
He was looking forward to hell. It was out of town.
Yeah. His father is a failed MLB-hopeful who is so obsessed with Matt's football career that he pays for Matt's steroids and painkillers. Which they've never talked about. He isn't the only one who's obsessed with the team. When word gets out about a brutal hazing incident* that occurred at the annual football camp, the adults in town seem much more interested in covering the story up than actually doing anything about it. 'Cause, you know. You don't want to jeopardize the season.
Matt has to figure out whether or not he's going to be a Stand-Up-Guy-Who-Will-Do-What's-Right, like Chris Crutcher's The Tao Jones OR a Self-Deluded-King-of-Rationalization-and-Denial like Chris Lynch's Keir Sarafian.
Okay, it sounds easy when I put it like that, but it isn't an easy one for Matt. At all. He's under a lot of pressure from almost everyone he knows (not to mention the fact that a scandal like this will almost certainly destroy his chances at a Division One school), and he's never been a leader. Despite his co-captain status, he's always been comfortable just being one of the team.
Quite edgy, with the sex and the violence and the swearing and the drugs and the drinking. Also gripping and well written and thoughtful with strong character development**. I don't usually read much in the way of sports fiction, but I'm definitely planning on reading Lipsyte's backlist.
*It's extremely short, but also extremely awful. It involves a plastic bat. I believe my exact response was "GACK" in my notes. Let me check. Yep. GACK.
**My only real complaint in that department is that Matt and Sara's emotional relationship progressed too fast for me. It wasn't believable. Actually, I didn't find Sara all that believable, period. I liked her anyway, though.