Mercy Rule by Tom Leveen
Published: February 20th 2018 by Sky Pony Press
Danny’s parents yanked him from the art school that let him wear a kilt and listen to bands that no one’s heard of. Now he’s starting sophomore year at the public high school–the one with the gymnasium at the heart of the building and the glorified athletes who rule it all. The smart thing would be to blend in, but Danny has always been about making statements.
Brady just wants to get out. Go to college, play football, maybe reach the NFL. He definitely wants to stop waiting for his deadbeat mother to come home, sleeping on park benches, and going to bed hungry. But first he has to lead the team to the championships. It all adds up to a lot of stress. So who can really blame him when he and the football team turn their aggressions on the new freak? Even the quarterback needs to blow off steam sometimes.
Coach turns a blind eye to his players’ crimes–because this year, they’re going to States. But maybe if Coach had paid more attention they could’ve caught it before it all happened. Maybe it could’ve been avoided.
With quick cuts between a large cast of unforgettable characters, and razor-sharp plotting, Tom Leeven takes readers on a countdown to an inevitable, horrifying act. This gripping novel offers an intense, smart perspective on the tragic, toxic mindsets behind the celebrated American sport and the monsters it creates.
This has been a highly anticipated read of mine since I discovered it at the end of last year on GR. I was so excited to grab my copy when it released – but I’m left with mixed feelings. I loved the idea behind this book and the different societal issues it represents, but I feel like it could have been better. There’s a lot I want to say and I don’t want to give out spoilers, so some parts might seem a little vague.
What I liked about this book was the fact that it focused on the build up toward the crime that was committed. It showed off a variety of different reasons as to why the character did what they did (I don’t want to give away who). Leveen also did a great job of showing the signs of what wa going to happen and who was going commit the crime from the beginning.I liked the fact that the characters never saw the signs, but w as outsiders (readers) do because that’s how it usually happens in real life. I often read book based on this subject matter and it usually focuses on the event itself or the aftermath, so it was a refreshing change to focus on what happens before hand and the fact that everyone processes things in a different way.
I also feel that Leveen did a great job in showing a variety of different issues that led up to what happened at the end. A lot of boson this subject matter focus on one particular issue and call it a day – which I don’t think is a fair representation. Leveen managed to intertwine every aspect of a persons life to really show how far someone gets pushed before they do the unthinkable – drugs, mental issues that were not properly dealt with and cared for, familial issues, school issues etc.
I have mixed feelings about the multiple POV’s. I liked the fact that Leveen used multiple POV’s to really represent what was going on. He showed the idea that everyone is different and that everyone has a different breaking point. The multiplePOVs managed to paint a bigger picture and really show what was happening and why the character ultimately does what they do. I liked the idea that, whilst a lot of the issues (not all, but most) seemed like mundane issues to me, they aren’t to someone else – again reinforcing the idea that everyone reacts to things differently. I also liked the idea behind having POVs from characters who didn’t have anything to do with the character because it reinforced the ending and the way in which people can et caught up in things that have nothing to do with them though no fault of their own.
Having said that, I also feel that there were too many POV’s. Whilst I liked the idea of showing what the crime can really do to other people and the way in which it weaved itself into the aftermath etc. I would have liked to have had the focus completely on the person who committed the crime – both from their POV (which we got) as well as the POVs from the people who interacted with him, both good and bad. I feel that the other POV s who had nothing to do with the end game, and only really came into play when everything was said and done, distracted from the character and the snowball effect that was going on.
The multiple POVs also served to keep the reader as an outsider looking in. I liked the fact that this book had me sympathising with the characters – including the person who committed the crime. I felt sorry for all of them a one point or another and there were times where I would laugh with them etc. Having said that, I was still an outsider looking in as opposed to really connected to the characters as I usually am. Usually this would bother me, but I liked the effect it had on me as a reader. It represented what a lot of us actually are when things like this happen in real life – we’re outsiders looking in, we relate to the people who have gone through something that horrific and we sympathise with them. What this book does which we don’t usually consider, is show us the other side. I sympathised throughout the book with the person who committed the crime. I felt angry for them and I was upset with everything that was going on. I felt conflicted when they did what they did because I know that its wrong and its something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone… but I also understand why they did what they did and how the ended up at that point.
The book also left me feeling like I had failed the character themselves. Whilst I saw the signs from very early on and knew what was going to happen by the end based on those signs, it never clicked who the character actually was until the end. I feel like I should have maybe guessed it before it was revealed. I loved the way that Leveen weaved this story and the way in which he kept the true characters identity hazy until the very final pages. It brought the story together a lot more.
I also liked the way in which sports was added into the story. I liked the way in which the wrong doings of those in the sport – including the coach – wove into what happened at the end. It really highlighted a societal issue that still goes on today in the idea that sports people really do get away with a lot more because of their status and the idea that people don’t want to ruin their futures. Having said that,I would have liked maybe more of an explanation to the Mercy Rule and the way in which it contributed the story. WhilstI googled and it was also explained in the book at some point, I still don’t really understand what it has to do with the story itself.
All in all, I enjoyed this book. This book intertwined a lot of different factors and reasons and really showed the snowball effect of what a persons actions can do to another person. I liked the psychology behind everything that was going on and the way in which sports was woven into the story. It really showed the idea that people in sports have a lot more influence that most and that they should be role models to people because of the amount of ‘power’ they have in every day lives. This book had me thinking about it long after it was over. I gave this book 4.5/5 stars.