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Kneel

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This fearless debut novel explores racism, injustice, and self-expression through the story of a promising Black football star in Louisiana. The system is rigged. For guys like Russell Boudreaux, football is the only way out of their small town. As the team’s varsity tight end, Rus has a singular goal: to get a scholarship and play on the national stage. But when his best fr This fearless debut novel explores racism, injustice, and self-expression through the story of a promising Black football star in Louisiana. The system is rigged. For guys like Russell Boudreaux, football is the only way out of their small town. As the team’s varsity tight end, Rus has a singular goal: to get a scholarship and play on the national stage. But when his best friend is unfairly arrested and kicked off the team, Rus faces an impossible choice: speak up or live in fear. “Please rise for the national anthem.” Desperate for change, Rus kneels during the national anthem. In one instant, he falls from local stardom and becomes a target for hatred. But he’s not alone. With the help of his best friend and an unlikely ally, Rus will fight for his dreams, and for justice.


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This fearless debut novel explores racism, injustice, and self-expression through the story of a promising Black football star in Louisiana. The system is rigged. For guys like Russell Boudreaux, football is the only way out of their small town. As the team’s varsity tight end, Rus has a singular goal: to get a scholarship and play on the national stage. But when his best fr This fearless debut novel explores racism, injustice, and self-expression through the story of a promising Black football star in Louisiana. The system is rigged. For guys like Russell Boudreaux, football is the only way out of their small town. As the team’s varsity tight end, Rus has a singular goal: to get a scholarship and play on the national stage. But when his best friend is unfairly arrested and kicked off the team, Rus faces an impossible choice: speak up or live in fear. “Please rise for the national anthem.” Desperate for change, Rus kneels during the national anthem. In one instant, he falls from local stardom and becomes a target for hatred. But he’s not alone. With the help of his best friend and an unlikely ally, Rus will fight for his dreams, and for justice.

30 review for Kneel

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gina Malanga

    Colin Kaepernick inspired so many when he took a knee, but he also angered so many others and his career was taken from him despite his talent. When Rus be ones an activist instead of just a football player he faces much of the same scrutiny and lack of support, the idea of shut up and play was alive and well in his small town. The same small town that was plagued by racism and the death of a young black man by an overzealous white cop. As the violence and injustices become more and more pronoun Colin Kaepernick inspired so many when he took a knee, but he also angered so many others and his career was taken from him despite his talent. When Rus be ones an activist instead of just a football player he faces much of the same scrutiny and lack of support, the idea of shut up and play was alive and well in his small town. The same small town that was plagued by racism and the death of a young black man by an overzealous white cop. As the violence and injustices become more and more pronounced Rus can no longer keep his mouth shut, but will he lose it all? A timely and thoughtful book about being an ally, using your voice and raising hell when what is happening in the world is wrong. As an English teacher I loved the use of literature to remind us that these stories and injustices are nothing new! A great read I can’t wait to include in my classroom.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Leeth

    When I picked up this book, I thought I knew where it was headed. Nope, I was wrong. This book was a powerful surprise of a story with unique perspective and voice. It had my heart racing with all kinds of emotions. Great story!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Russell Boudreaux and his friend Marion have been playing football together since they were little, both hoping for a Division 1 scholarship to get them out of their small, rural, racist town. A few months prior to the opening of the story a young, unarmed Black man was killed by a White cop who has yet to be indicted, suspended, or even placed on administrative leave. Also, during the final game of the previous football season, their team lost in a close match to their rivals just across the ri Russell Boudreaux and his friend Marion have been playing football together since they were little, both hoping for a Division 1 scholarship to get them out of their small, rural, racist town. A few months prior to the opening of the story a young, unarmed Black man was killed by a White cop who has yet to be indicted, suspended, or even placed on administrative leave. Also, during the final game of the previous football season, their team lost in a close match to their rivals just across the river, a well-funded all-White school. When Marion is unfairly accused and suspended from the team, Russell is too fed up to take it anymore and he takes a knee during the national anthem at the next game. What follows is a maelstrom of racist hate from all over the place and disappointment, frustration, blame, and anger from his own family and teammates. It's up to Russell to decide how he's going to react. Will he put his dreams on hold to stand up for what he knows is right? Or, will he push down those feelings and swallow the hate and racism knowing that football is his ticket out of town? Honestly, this book made me so angry that I had a hard time reading it. The injustice and racism and lack of consequences for the White people was so much that I just couldn't fathom it. I do understand that I have the privilege of putting the book down for a little while and regrouping, while BIPOC have to live in it every day with no breaks to regroup. One character in the book uses the phrase "Silence is Violence" and I refuse to be silent! But, this isn't the forum to fix racism, this is a forum to review the book. So, I will tell you that this book is powerfully written and grabs the reader and makes them feel it. I spent 2 years living in Monroe, Louisiana (where this book seems to take place, although the town across the river is West Monroe, not Westmond as it is in the book) and I saw some serious poverty and racism while living there. Thus, the events in the book came off as believable and realistic. I appreciated that the problems were not all tied up with a little bow and solved at the end. I appreciated that every character had a different response to the racism in the book - that rang true to me. While a few of the things did seem to be solved a little too quickly (view spoiler)[for example, the town's response at the end (hide spoiler)] , overall this book was character-driven and credible and I definitely recommend it to every reader and non-reader alike. As infuriating as it was for me to read, it's a book that all Americans should read. Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ReadnliftwithShar

    Russell has the star factor. He’s a fearless football player with his eyes set on a Division 1 football scholarship. However, his hometown Monroe, La has a problem. A racial problem. Two football teams that are literally divided by one street. Russell finds himself in a crossroad and he is fed up with the racial issues in his town. His good friend is wrongfully charged and jailed after a incident on the football field. The author did such a great job with this storyline; it was realistic and raw Russell has the star factor. He’s a fearless football player with his eyes set on a Division 1 football scholarship. However, his hometown Monroe, La has a problem. A racial problem. Two football teams that are literally divided by one street. Russell finds himself in a crossroad and he is fed up with the racial issues in his town. His good friend is wrongfully charged and jailed after a incident on the football field. The author did such a great job with this storyline; it was realistic and raw. I didn’t think I would be able to finish because it literally depicts what is currently happening in the world now. But I continued to read and I finished so quickly. This book was a page turner, I needed to read this. The bravery and self determination of the characters was so admirable. The new generation of, “woke” was so evident and carefully described in this book. It literally brought me to tears to see how this football team came together and demanded change. The main character Russell was a hero, he had so much going for himself and he went with his gut instinct and stood firmly on his beliefs. This is a young adult book, but it can be read by any person of age. This book contains: racism, bullying, protests, child neglect, unlawful behavior, etc. I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    High Plains Library District

    Thank you to NetGalley for the eArc of this deeply moving book by Candace Buford. It reminded me of Nic Stone's, Martin and Justyce books, young black men getting arrested for no reason. It was heartbreaking and very emotional to read of the police brutality towards the innocent young black men. The things I really enjoyed about this book were the details that were put in to developing the characters and the setting. I could feel the painful emotions that the young black men were experiencing th Thank you to NetGalley for the eArc of this deeply moving book by Candace Buford. It reminded me of Nic Stone's, Martin and Justyce books, young black men getting arrested for no reason. It was heartbreaking and very emotional to read of the police brutality towards the innocent young black men. The things I really enjoyed about this book were the details that were put in to developing the characters and the setting. I could feel the painful emotions that the young black men were experiencing throughout the book. Each page drew me in wanting to see justice for Marion and the black community of Monroe. I was hooked and Buford does a great job with this book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Roos ❤️

    Very very powerful title and book cover!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kate (GirlReading)

    punchy, timely, powerful and self aware, this superbly written debut is a true 2021 standout. I’m incredibly excited to see what buford writes next. TW: racism, racial profiling, police brutality, hate crime

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    AARC provided by Young Adult Books Central Russell and his friend Marion live in Louisiana, and hope to use their skills at football to work their way out of that environment. Things are particularly tense in the area after another Black teen, Dante Maynard, was shot and killed by a policeman, Officer Reynaud, who has not yet been charged. Russell drives an older car, and when it breaks down a few blocks from his area of town, he and Russell are very nervous. When a player from the mostly white W AARC provided by Young Adult Books Central Russell and his friend Marion live in Louisiana, and hope to use their skills at football to work their way out of that environment. Things are particularly tense in the area after another Black teen, Dante Maynard, was shot and killed by a policeman, Officer Reynaud, who has not yet been charged. Russell drives an older car, and when it breaks down a few blocks from his area of town, he and Russell are very nervous. When a player from the mostly white Westmond football team stops, they know it is not to help them, and are just glad that Mr. Dupree, who runs a fruit and vegetable wholesale company, stops and gets them to safety. Russell has a crush on Gabby Dupree, who is more interested in school than in Russell. There has been a lot of activity in the community surrounding Maynard's death, and many flyers calling out the police and asking for justice have been posted by someone being called "Dante's Shadow". When Russell's team plays Westmond, tensions are already high, and when Lawrence, a Westmond player, uses the n-word on the field and is not taken out of the game, as dictated by the rules, Marion is pushed by Brad, another Westmond player, and the ensuing scuffle is blamed on Marion rather than the white players. He is arrested and taken to jail, and Russell's father has to bail him out, since Marion's mother is not returning calls and his step father is abusive. Marion comes to stay with Russell and his family while they work on finding someone to take his case. Coach Fontenot removes Marion from games, because the league has required him to do so, and this means that Marion could lose his chance to get a college scholarship. When Russell is moved to protest by kneeling during the national anthem before a game, his own career is in jeopardy, and his father, who lives and breathes Russell's football career, cautions him to back off. Things improve slightly when Russell is paired with Gabby on a project for English class that involves James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk, and the two get to spend more time together. Gabby is very interested in issues of social justice, and so takes an interest in Marion's case. Unfortunately, she also takes Russell to a protest about Maynard which takes a bad turn. Will Russell be able to find a way to use his voice to call for social justice and still be able to pursue his dreams of a football career? This is a very timely book, and brilliantly incorporates social issues with football in a nicely nuanced story. While Marion's unfair arrest, Dante Maynard's death, and the resultant community outrage take center stage, there are undercurrents of the players' college aspirations, family interactions, and budding romance to bring the political problems close to home. One of my favorite parts was when Russell's father explains how his own football career, in the 1980s, played out, giving details of racial discrimination that help explain his actions toward his son's activism. The assignment of If Beale Street Could Talk helps give Russell perspective and assists him in finding his voice. Russell is often torn between his own safety and speaking out. This is painfully realistic. The books starts with the scene with his car breaking down. He doesn't want to worry that he is just a few blocks into Westmond, but he does. When he is approached by the other player, he wants to talk back, but knows this is dangerous. Russell often feels like a coward for not speaking up, but realizes that saying something could turn into a life and death incident. Especially poignant is the scene at the protest when Gabby is being injured by a police officer, but one of the protest organizers pushes Russell away, knowing that he could be killed for trying to protect Gabby. While fictional titles Feinstein's Backfield Boys (2017) and Bradley's Call Me By My Name (2014) as well as the nonfiction books Attucks!: Oscar Robertson and the Basketball Team That Awakened a City (2018) by Hoose and Strong Inside (2016) by Maraniss all combine sports with discussions of racism, all of the authors are white men. It's increasingly important to make sure that the stories of Black characters are told by Black authors, so it's good to see Buford enter the young adult field with this stirring account of racism set against the background of sports in the south. There are a quantity of f-words used in the text. While I normally don't buy books that make this choice (my budget is limited and I can't buy everything, so I choose to support authors who don't use this language), the combination of football and racial issues will probably result in me purchasing this book, which has themes and language similar to Volponi's Black and White., which has been on my shelves since 2005 without complaint.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Renata

    This is a book that I think will resonate with a lot of teens. I'm not the biggest sports fan but it's good for me to be reminded how important football is to the lives of some teens, and especially the way sports scholarships can be a path to college for poor kids who might not otherwise have one. I appreciated that Russell explicitly names Colin Kaepernick as an inspiration and the text here directly engages with Kaepernick's protest and the consequences thereof in a way that again, I think a This is a book that I think will resonate with a lot of teens. I'm not the biggest sports fan but it's good for me to be reminded how important football is to the lives of some teens, and especially the way sports scholarships can be a path to college for poor kids who might not otherwise have one. I appreciated that Russell explicitly names Colin Kaepernick as an inspiration and the text here directly engages with Kaepernick's protest and the consequences thereof in a way that again, I think a lot of teens, especially teen athletes, will enjoy reading. The book gives a good sense of how unjust white supremacy is and how the odds are stacked against young Black men (and like, all Black people) in the US while still ending on a hopeful note. (view spoiler)[ Also there are some things where as an adult reader you're like OBVIOUSLY, OBVIOUSLY GABBY IS ~DANTE'S SHADOW~ IT'S SO OBVIOUS ahem but it's a teen book for teens! also Russell later explicitly acknowledges that he was biased by assuming it was a man. Just wanted to get on top of that, ok bye also I really thought Marion would be killed and it was such a relief that he wasn't. whew. (hide spoiler)]

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    It read uninspired and I wasn't as engaged as I wanted to be with a topic such as this. There are several books in this vein that are coming out or already have including Why We Fly, that I can think of off the top of my head. Being male-centered and Black-focused on the sport of football is absolutely following the 'historical' elements of Kaepernick's knee which coupled with this cover will allow it to fly off the shelves without much prodding for me. And it has all of the elements to make it It read uninspired and I wasn't as engaged as I wanted to be with a topic such as this. There are several books in this vein that are coming out or already have including Why We Fly, that I can think of off the top of my head. Being male-centered and Black-focused on the sport of football is absolutely following the 'historical' elements of Kaepernick's knee which coupled with this cover will allow it to fly off the shelves without much prodding for me. And it has all of the elements to make it a success from family, friends, and a romantic interest to sports and high school drama. It's all there. But as I mentioned at the beginning, for me, read flat. It is necessary and it is there, but it's not a favorite though the underlying messages will ring true for many including those teens wishing to be activists however outspoken, in writing, or through actions.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Yvonne

    I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is a very moving book, I could not put it down. The cover might make you believe this book is all about football. While there is a football team in the story, it is not the main focus of the story. Monroe and Westmond Louisiana are divided by a freeway, economics and color. A black teen, Dante Maynard, was killed by a police officer in Shreveport. The teen had not broken any law, he did not have a weapon. Officer Reyna I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is a very moving book, I could not put it down. The cover might make you believe this book is all about football. While there is a football team in the story, it is not the main focus of the story. Monroe and Westmond Louisiana are divided by a freeway, economics and color. A black teen, Dante Maynard, was killed by a police officer in Shreveport. The teen had not broken any law, he did not have a weapon. Officer Reynaud, who was not charged, now works in Westmond. Russell Boudreaux knows the only way out of Monroe is with a Division 1 football scholarship. Rus and Marion are best friends and co-captains of their high school football team. During the coin toss before the game one of the Westmond team captains uses the n-word. Rus brings it to the referee's attention that that’s an automatic game suspension according to league rules. The referee gives the Westmond player a warning instead of suspending him. Marion comments that they will handle it on the field. The other Westmond player then starts a fight by shoving them down. Officer Reynaud arrests Marion and the football game is postponed. Marion is then removed from the team by the league. Overwhelmed by the racial injustice he has witnessed, Rus kneels during the national anthem at a game. This one act of protest almost gets him kicked off the team. Russell now has to decide: does he listen to his dad and his coach, keep his head down and just play football so he can get his scholarship OR does he join Gabby, the girl he likes, and speak up against the racial injustice that keeps his town living in fear.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

    This book was received as an ARC from Inkyard Press - OwnVoices in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I heard about this book from a member of our teen book club and that it's more powerful than The Hate You Give and that was a book I could not put down and tugged on my heart strings especially this time of year. I can remember exactly when ESPN broke out the story of Collin Kaepernick kneeling for the National Anthem in attempt to This book was received as an ARC from Inkyard Press - OwnVoices in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I heard about this book from a member of our teen book club and that it's more powerful than The Hate You Give and that was a book I could not put down and tugged on my heart strings especially this time of year. I can remember exactly when ESPN broke out the story of Collin Kaepernick kneeling for the National Anthem in attempt to raise awareness for racial injustice and police brutality. Not only was this viral but, it costed Kaepernick his job as the starting QB for the San Francisco 49ers. To boys like Russ, I can see the passion he has for the sport and the struggle he is going through dealing with the pain he suffers each day and having people see you as a target rather than a hero but in the end, all you want is to live your dreams and be at peace with others and with yourself. The book hit me hard at many levels and the struggle is definitely real. We will consider adding this title to our YA collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Gold

    I read an early version of this book and I am so excited to see it on the shelves!!! I love these characters and how they take a stand against injustice in their small town and everywhere. For fans of Friday Night Lights and The Hate U Give.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Burton

    I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review. There’s a quote about books being mirrors; windows, or sliding glass doors. This book was a sliding glass door. Russ lives in a small town in Louisiana where he is a senior on his school’s football team. He is looking to get a scholarship away from his hometown when his best friend and team’s quarterback is arrested for no reason, changing both their life trajectories. I’ve read Nic Stone and Angie I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review. There’s a quote about books being mirrors; windows, or sliding glass doors. This book was a sliding glass door. Russ lives in a small town in Louisiana where he is a senior on his school’s football team. He is looking to get a scholarship away from his hometown when his best friend and team’s quarterback is arrested for no reason, changing both their life trajectories. I’ve read Nic Stone and Angie Thomas, but Kneel was different. Russ’s experience in a rural setting is one I’ve never read before, and there’s an added layer of frustration to the isolation these characters experience within their small town. These characters were very well developed and the writing for the overall story was so profound. I have so many passages I want to quote. I am not at all a sportsball person, so parts of this book went over my head, but I was still able to grasp the story. The fact that I finished reading the book and immediately want to take action is telling. This book is absolutely moving.

  15. 5 out of 5

    M Moore

    What a great story of courage in the face of injustice! I loved this piece of YA fiction that is so relevant to current events. This would be a a great book to start a dialogue about race, police brutality, Black Lives Matter and so much more with both teens and adults. The characters are so relatable - I even shed a tear (or maybe more) by the end as I was rooting for justice to win. I highly recommend this one! Thanks to Inkyard Press and TLC Book Tours for a gifted ARC and the opportunity to b What a great story of courage in the face of injustice! I loved this piece of YA fiction that is so relevant to current events. This would be a a great book to start a dialogue about race, police brutality, Black Lives Matter and so much more with both teens and adults. The characters are so relatable - I even shed a tear (or maybe more) by the end as I was rooting for justice to win. I highly recommend this one! Thanks to Inkyard Press and TLC Book Tours for a gifted ARC and the opportunity to be a part of the tour for this great book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Colleen (Colleensreadingadventures) Scidmore

    So many people were on opposites sides of what they thought about Colin Kaepernick bending the knee during the National Anthem. I think it took courage especially among all the hate and the loss of his career. I’m very interested in reading a book that was inspired by his brave act.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lyssa

    This book is a mash-up between DEAR MARTIN and GOLDEN ARM (but with football instead of baseball). It's also a fantastic read -- timely, well-written, and not super long. I was worried that the ending would either be too neat or too bleak, but the author expertly brings us to a satisfying yet realistic conclusion. This is a must-buy for all teen collections. This book is a mash-up between DEAR MARTIN and GOLDEN ARM (but with football instead of baseball). It's also a fantastic read -- timely, well-written, and not super long. I was worried that the ending would either be too neat or too bleak, but the author expertly brings us to a satisfying yet realistic conclusion. This is a must-buy for all teen collections.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    Gratitude to NetGalley for recommending this ARC Proof, I received it on Wednesday, started it on Thursday, and just finished it. "[KNEEL: Justice is a Team Sport] by Candace Buford is the first book that has grabbed my heart, soul, and spirit in a long time. I have been crying big gulping tears, cheering scaring the cats, and laughing a little bit. KNEEL will be one of those books that circulate in Juvenile and Y/A sections of the library so often that they have to have multiple copies and ha Gratitude to NetGalley for recommending this ARC Proof, I received it on Wednesday, started it on Thursday, and just finished it. "[KNEEL: Justice is a Team Sport] by Candace Buford is the first book that has grabbed my heart, soul, and spirit in a long time. I have been crying big gulping tears, cheering scaring the cats, and laughing a little bit. KNEEL will be one of those books that circulate in Juvenile and Y/A sections of the library so often that they have to have multiple copies and has to be replaced often, making the stats becoming a classic. I have personally emailed a few Librarians I know who scour the earth for writing and books like this to pass this title along as a must-have for any collection that promotes diversity. My life has been changed by reading this book. Thank you Candace Buford I will never forget this story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra Bland

    Thank you to NetGalley for the eArc of this deeply moving book by Candace Buford. It reminded me of Nic Stone's, Martin and Justice books, young black men getting arrested for no reason. It was heartbreaking and very emotional. The things I really enjoyed about this book were the details that were put in to developing the characters and the setting. I could feel the painful emotions that the young black men were experiencing throughout the book. Each page drew me in wanting to see justice for Ma Thank you to NetGalley for the eArc of this deeply moving book by Candace Buford. It reminded me of Nic Stone's, Martin and Justice books, young black men getting arrested for no reason. It was heartbreaking and very emotional. The things I really enjoyed about this book were the details that were put in to developing the characters and the setting. I could feel the painful emotions that the young black men were experiencing throughout the book. Each page drew me in wanting to see justice for Marion and the black community of Monroe. I was hooked and Buford does a great job with this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    Kneel, Candace Buford, author Russell Boudreaux is on the Jackson Jaguars and is a star player. He and his best friend Marion are the co-captains. Both are dreaming of getting out of their impoverished neighborhood by landing a football scholarship at a division one university. Both are always conscious of behaving above reproach so that they are not a target of the police, whom they fear and distrust. Both are sexually active and often preoccupied with partying and talk of girlfriends. Russell l Kneel, Candace Buford, author Russell Boudreaux is on the Jackson Jaguars and is a star player. He and his best friend Marion are the co-captains. Both are dreaming of getting out of their impoverished neighborhood by landing a football scholarship at a division one university. Both are always conscious of behaving above reproach so that they are not a target of the police, whom they fear and distrust. Both are sexually active and often preoccupied with partying and talk of girlfriends. Russell lives in a two-parent home. His parents are strict and support his football effort to help him reach their goal of improving his life. His mom is a nurse and his dad is a plumber. Marion’s mom has abandoned him and his stepdad is abusive. He spends most of his days and nights with the Boudreaux family. When Dante Maynard is gunned down by Officer Reynaud, a corrupt cop, there does not seem to be any justice. The frustration of the community is real but they are helpless. Those in power do not respect them. Those in power are white and have all the power. This is the world that Russell lives in, and it is not a fair one. He lives in Monroe, the town on the wrong side of the tracks. Suddenly flyers are posted all around town saying “Silence is Violence”. Who is posting them? The phantom is nicknamed Dante’s Shadow. The police want to find this agitator, but no one knows who it is, nor would anyone tell if they did. They protect their own. Russell and the Jackson Jaguars have their opening game with the Westmond team. They are from the wealthier white side of town, the right side of the tracks. Brad Simmons, a spoiled, smart-mouthed bigot is their captain. He plays dirty. At the start of the game a racial slur starts a fight. The game is canceled and rescheduled. The corrupt cop, Reynaud, arrests Marion who is visibly injured. It is unfair. Brad started the fight, and there are witnesses, but no one comes forward, not even the referees who watched. They were on Westmond’s turf. Brad is released without any charges against him, but they throw the book at Marion. Unlike Marion’s deadbeat family, Brad’s father is well connected, from the right side of town, and from the right race. Marion is suspended from the team because of the arrest. If he can’t play, he can’t get a scholarship. Dreams of a better future go down the drain. Russell is distraught over his friend’s plight. At the next game, a sure win, he decides to kneel in protest during the National Anthem. His coach, his teammates and his family are furious. He is benched and they lose the game. Should he have kneeled? Did he have any other way to make his feelings known? Were his feelings important? Was it more important for him to consider his own future and how his behavior in defense of Marion might affect it? Only one person seems to be pleased with his actions, Gabby. Gabby was once his good friend, but awhile ago, he invited her to a party and abandoned her. That ended their relationship. Now, he wanted to get closer to her, but she had largely been ignoring him, that is, until he knelt. She brought him to meetings that opened his eyes to other possibilities of having his and other black voices heard. What will Russell do next? Will the or Dante’s Shadow achieve justice? Will he fulfill his dream or toss it away to right wrongdoing? The message of the book is told in extremes. Examples of racial injustice are highlighted. It is black and white, literally, though, with no gray or explanations. Yes, there are lousy cops, but most are not. Yes, sometimes blacks are targeted by the lousy cops, but most are not. Sometimes those targeted are actually guilty of committing crimes or resisting arrest, but that is not addressed. No daylight appears between the examples of racism in this book and the reasons for them that may not have been racist. However, the book highlights the injustice in the black community and it does it well. Still, portraying all white people as racist and all cops as corrupt, does no one any service. There is injustice on both sides of this coin. Both sides need to be explored. The book needs to be read by all students so that they can empathize with this discrimination and put an end to it, but it needs the supervision of a just person. The book obviously stirs up memories of the football player, Kaepernick, whose kneeling protest started a movement that was resented by many sports fans who do not want politics in their world of sports nor do they want their flag disrespected. They do not see the connection between American patriotism and his protest. America had given Kaepernick the very right to protest. The book does not address both sides of this issue which, if it did, could lead to more helpful conversations, uniting the races, rather than dividing them. It does not address the differences in the social or economic backgrounds of both Russell and Kaepernick, either. The book also reminds people of a cop who had been reprimanded many times for his behavior, who seemed to target and then murder a black man, high on drugs, who resisted arrest for a minor crime. This is a horrific memory, but the author does not address the crime committed, or the drugs involved, or the arrest resistance by the victim that led to his death. It only addressed the result. The book also hearkens back to memories of Trayvon Martin, whose crime appeared to be walking in a white neighborhood. A private security volunteer accosted him. This racist incident resulted in the death of this young man. However, the fact that he had a record and there had been recent incidents of vandalism is part of the story but is not discussed. The circumstances that led up to many of the racist incidents are not explored, only the racism is, and that may be appropriate if the final message of the book is that there is a problem on both sides of the coin. Blacks should not have dead end lives, but nor should they commit so many crimes which is what causes suspicion. Which came first, the chicken or the egg. We know racism was first, but is the acceptable end result to be racism toward another group? This book could present a teaching moment to stop the extreme reactions we witness everyday of both racism and some over the top resistance movements that are followed by looting and rioting that hurts the cause of the justice they seek. Instead, it seems to encourage divisiveness because even after achieving the goal and attaining justice, the kneeling continues in even greater numbers. There is no satisfaction for success. There is only the feeling of power which spurs them on to do it again. Unity is a good thing when it doesn’t inspire disunity. If the goal is justice, the end must not be injustice for others. This young adult novel does justify Russell’s kneeling, at least the first time, even for me, who doesn’t believe it is appropriate to disrespect the flag or country, that gives you the right to protest. I just think it went too far by painting all blacks as innocent and all whites as guilty. However, as a white woman, pejoratively referred to as a Karen in some circles, my review may be unacceptable, and my views may be unrealistic. I have not walked in the shoes of a black person, but I have experienced the injustice and the fear caused by bias. Silence is wrong for both sides, but before there is a dialogue bringing about justice for all, both sides have to trust each other. A book that highlights violence, should not reinforce it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    A powerful, compelling story that belongs on the shelves next to The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and All American Boys. Kneel blends together numerous hard-hitting truths: -two towns divided by the highway, one the lower-income “hood” and the other overprivileged white folks, and the prejudices and tensions that run between them -a cop who walked scot-free from killing a black teen, now working off-duty security at the football games and continuing to abuse his power -the disparate treatment white A powerful, compelling story that belongs on the shelves next to The Hate U Give, Dear Martin, and All American Boys. Kneel blends together numerous hard-hitting truths: -two towns divided by the highway, one the lower-income “hood” and the other overprivileged white folks, and the prejudices and tensions that run between them -a cop who walked scot-free from killing a black teen, now working off-duty security at the football games and continuing to abuse his power -the disparate treatment white and black men committing similar offenses, and the power of money and privilege in the justice system -the way a student’s entire future can depend on the funding of their school, their ability to get scouted for scholarships, and how one player can bring that tumbling down for the whole team -the tension between school boards, parents, and teachers in presenting critical race theory and activist-minded curriculum As others have mentioned, the plot is fairly preachy and predictable, but that is okay. For many readers, this book may be a primer helping them understand (or felt seen regarding!) all the BLM/Kapernick/etc politics in the real world.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    "Kneel" by Candace Buford is such a timely YA Black Lives Matter story for teenagers faced with all the challenges that living in America has placed on their very lives. How have racism and economic disparities impacted educational and career opportunities for our youth? Why is police brutality more of an issue now than it was during the Civil Rights Movement? Is there Hope for a Better Safer Future? "Kneel" by Candace Buford is such a timely YA Black Lives Matter story for teenagers faced with all the challenges that living in America has placed on their very lives. How have racism and economic disparities impacted educational and career opportunities for our youth? Why is police brutality more of an issue now than it was during the Civil Rights Movement? Is there Hope for a Better Safer Future?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Living My Best Book Life

    Kneel is a powerful read about speaking up and standing up for what is right! Candace Buford stuns with her debut novel. Hands down one of the most compelling reads of 2021. Russell is a star football player who is on track to receive a scholarship to college. He plays great and scouts are already showing interest. His parents couldn't be prouder of him and know that his hard work will pay off. But things change when Rus' best friend and star quarterback, Marion, get wrongfully arrested. Rus has Kneel is a powerful read about speaking up and standing up for what is right! Candace Buford stuns with her debut novel. Hands down one of the most compelling reads of 2021. Russell is a star football player who is on track to receive a scholarship to college. He plays great and scouts are already showing interest. His parents couldn't be prouder of him and know that his hard work will pay off. But things change when Rus' best friend and star quarterback, Marion, get wrongfully arrested. Rus has seen witnessed so many black young adults his age get wrongfully arrested and even killed because of racism, but this really hits close to home. He is not only filled with rage but he doesn't know how he is supposed to react. Does he speak up or stay silent? Rus is such a brave young man. He knows that what is happening in his town is not right and just. So, during the next football game, he decides to take a knee during the national anthem. This is such a profound moment. It is the moment that Rus makes a choice to stand up for what he believes in. And the lead of to that moment gave me chills. When the mostly white crowd is chanting 'lock them up' it really made me see the hate in those people. To assume because of Marion and Rus' color of their skin that they are automatically at fault. Candace really did a great job with that whole chapter and scene because it lead to action and growth. Rus stood up with a simple kneel of the knee but so many including his coach, teammates, and parents were showing their disapproval. This is so confusing for Rus. Why are the people who are supposed to believe in him and support him doing the complete opposite? Although this is very sad for Rus, I think the author did this intentionally. She did it to show how life and moving forward stands in the way of justice. Just because these people weren't supporting Rus it didn't mean that they didn't feel the same hurt and injustice he felt. In particular, his dad knew that if Rus continued to stand up and show/make statements it would be the end of his football career. I am so glad that Rus had a love interest in Gabby. She is a force. She is all about standing up for injustice and speaking her mind. She does have a huge influence on Rus because he would do anything for her. She does support him when he needs it, but when she finds herself being wrongfully arrested by another white cop who thinks that because he wears a badge he can do whatever and never get reprimanded, it acts as another wake-up call for so many. I give Kneel 5 stars. This story is just so powerful and told from a wonderful perspective. I was captivated the entire time. I think it showcases the hardships that so many people of color face on a daily basis while showing how hard it can be to speak up when it feels like everyone is against you. This is a great read for young adults and adults to understand the importance of self-expression.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shane Harcombe

    I enjoyed this ARC very much. It was a compelling read. I enjoyed the characters (especially Gabby) and I find the world of small town American sports fascinating, whether it be Friday Night Lights, Cheer, or this story. It is so different to life here in Australia. We love our sport, but reserve our passion mainly for the professional level, whereas American high school and college ball is huge. Sport is also not seen as the ticket to success/education/changing your life for most people. It has I enjoyed this ARC very much. It was a compelling read. I enjoyed the characters (especially Gabby) and I find the world of small town American sports fascinating, whether it be Friday Night Lights, Cheer, or this story. It is so different to life here in Australia. We love our sport, but reserve our passion mainly for the professional level, whereas American high school and college ball is huge. Sport is also not seen as the ticket to success/education/changing your life for most people. It has a lot less riding on it. Along with this backdrop of high school football, we have the main topic of racial injustice; of people who's "only crime is being Black in America." Reading this, I felt the same disbelief at the actions of the police as I felt reading and watching about Selma and other protests in the 1960s. How does such racism end up with the law on its side? It would be unbelievable if it wasn't unfortunately based on reality. The question remains, what to do about this injustice? I like that the activist character in this novel was very clear in calling for non-violent protest, in the tradition of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. However, some turn to violent protests, as they see nothing changing, no-one listening. Russell finds himself torn between wanting to stand up and call out injustice, and staying quiet so as to not risk his college opportunities and entire future. He ponders "So... Did peaceful protests really work? Or did protests need to make more noise and shake things up?" Later, after police turn a peaceful demonstration into a riot, he reflects, "What was the point of protest if it blew up in our faces every single time? There was never any hope of changing the system. And the sooner I accepted that, the better." Russell's Dad relays a story from his playing days in the 1980's. Racist fans would throw bananas into the field and make monkey noises when he played. This brought to mind an incident that occurred in Australia, where an indigenous footballer, Adam Goodes, was called an ape by a fan. A club president and media personality also made a racist comment. This did not happen in distant, unenlightened times. This was in 2013! These acts of racism didn't go unchecked, but the fact remains that not enough was done at the time to support Adam. In fact he felt so unsupported he retired early and has refused to accept his nomination into the AFL Hall of Fame. Some things were predictable, some too convenient, but that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the story. I think it could benefit from an appendix highlighting the back story of some real life protests.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jaimie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. **received as an ARC from the publisher Truth be told, I likely never would have picked up this book if I hadn’t been sent an advance copy by the publishers, but it was definitely worth reading once I got started and I am glad that I had the opportunity to get out of my normal reading comfort zone. That’s one of the great benefits of getting books from publishers, I guess, so maybe I should take more chances with what I grab randomly from the library as well! This story trades on social justice t **received as an ARC from the publisher Truth be told, I likely never would have picked up this book if I hadn’t been sent an advance copy by the publishers, but it was definitely worth reading once I got started and I am glad that I had the opportunity to get out of my normal reading comfort zone. That’s one of the great benefits of getting books from publishers, I guess, so maybe I should take more chances with what I grab randomly from the library as well! This story trades on social justice themes that are hitting a lot of the headlines lately through the lens of highschool football star Russell Boudreaux. Russell may be young and hyper-focused on doing well enough at academics and excelling on the field to get a scholarship, but he is well aware of the inequities that divide his community and the injustices that are being meted out by the local police department. His involvement comes to a head though, when some ugly words are spoken by the rival team before a football game and his best friend (and team quarterback) is charged with assault and thrown off the league - while the opposing white player who actually started things sees absolutely no consequences for his actions. Russell is so incensed by the unfairness of the situation (though incensed is maybe not a strong enough word) that during the next game he chooses to kneel during the anthem as a form of protest - mimicking the real world actions of well-known footballer Colin Kaepernick - which escalates the situation drastically. The events of the story bring readers face to face with part of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, but what I found most engaging was the author’s exploration of the personal side of events through Russell. She tells the story from his point of view, so we are privy to the personal and very conflicted feelings that Russell has about what is going on - ranging from his fear of dying at the hands of a racist cop, his drive to speak up against inequality, his personal conflict with his parents and friends over the act of protest, his deep friendship and support for his best friend and his community, and the practical matter of potentially losing out on his scholarship and future over what are seen as “not socially acceptable” actions. Being white, female, and Canadian, I can’t claim to ever be able to fully understand the mindset and lives of people in communities other than mine, but it is stories like this one (which are grounded in truth and legitimacy and very much the real world) that bring me a step closer.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Kneel is exactly what I expected from a book about a Black high school football player in Louisiana who kneels during the national anthem after his best friend is falsely accused of starting a fight with a White rival player. Kneel is a compelling novel for our times written from the point of view of a Black male teenager, but there were no surprises. Main character and narrator Rus is impulsive, loyal, and a good son in addition to being a good football player. His parents have scrounged and sa Kneel is exactly what I expected from a book about a Black high school football player in Louisiana who kneels during the national anthem after his best friend is falsely accused of starting a fight with a White rival player. Kneel is a compelling novel for our times written from the point of view of a Black male teenager, but there were no surprises. Main character and narrator Rus is impulsive, loyal, and a good son in addition to being a good football player. His parents have scrounged and saved in hopes that Rus will have better opportunities than they had. Before a game with a White high school, two White players provoke a fight, but it’s the two Black players who are blamed and punished. I feel like I read a lot of books narrated by girls, so it was a nice change to read one narrated by a boy. The book opens with what should be a perfectly normal situation – car problems and a breakdown – that feels terrifying when seen from the point of view of two Black teenagers on the border of the White and Black parts of town. While football is important in the book, there is not a lot of focus on it, so if you aren’t a fan it should not impair your enjoyment and understanding of the book. I felt a romantic side plot was unnecessary and a bit of a distraction. The ending, while overly optimistic, is a satisfactory one for the reader. In chapter 22, at a rally, a speaker calls out the names of two Black men killed by police. I was surprised that the circumstances were very similar to real life incidents but real names were not used. I wonder what was behind that decision. I found it confusing. This novel brings together issues of Black Lives Matter, policing, justice, racism, and White silence, along with how social media and video have become so important in spotlighting the truth. The book is very earnest in its desire to convey these issues to the reader. It lacks the maturity and brilliance of The Hate U Give, but readers who enjoyed that book might also like to read Kneel. The last few chapters are the most compelling, with Chapter 29 being the strongest part of the book in my opinion. Kneel is a good choice for young adults and for public library young adult fiction collections. I read an advance reader copy from Netgalley; it is scheduled to be published on September 14.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Misse Jones

    You have a platform. You have people’s attention. Use it. Candace Buford’s, Kneel knocks it out of the park! I am thankful to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sharing a copy of this beautiful rendering in exchange for an honest review. Russell Boudreaux is a senior at Jackson High School in Louisiana where he is a standout athlete and regionally ranked tight-end on the squad. His focus is two parts: 1) football and 2) to acquire a golden ticket out of Monroe on a division 1 scholarship. While Rus You have a platform. You have people’s attention. Use it. Candace Buford’s, Kneel knocks it out of the park! I am thankful to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sharing a copy of this beautiful rendering in exchange for an honest review. Russell Boudreaux is a senior at Jackson High School in Louisiana where he is a standout athlete and regionally ranked tight-end on the squad. His focus is two parts: 1) football and 2) to acquire a golden ticket out of Monroe on a division 1 scholarship. While Rus has a great shot at accomplishing both, the harsh reality is that not everyone will make it out causing concern for him and all those around him striving similarly. It is true that Rus has the support of his team, his family, and his community and yet the racial divides that separate Monroe and Westmond cannot be ignored. summer break, a white police officer shot and killed a Black kid for no reason other than looking suspicious. And at the start of the season, no action has been taken against the officer. Tensions come to a head when in a big rivalry game racial slurs are thrown and violence ensues. Police are involved and the arrest one of Rus’ teammates follows. All of which creates issues for him and his plans and bring to light the ongoing struggles between the two communities. The question of justice and fairness come into play when students from Westmond who started the fight do not receive the same harsh treatment. Faced with a desire to do something and stand against injustice, Rus takes a knee during the national anthem at a game and is criticized across the board. Not exactly the response he was hoping to receive but one that will change him and so many around him. Where he thought he’d be met with understanding and respect, instead he encounters hate on varying levels. The author does a really good job developing the main character. Throughout the book, we can see the tension between him and the people and things surrounding and the struggles he faces internally in trying to determine the right thing to do. At times he wants to stand up and fight and other times he is driven by acquiescence and keeping his head down, worrying only about himself. To tackle the complexities of these nuances and mirror them to Colin Kaepernick’s story… phenomenal. Realistic fiction at its finest!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tara Weiss

    When viewed through the lens of a poignant take on activism, Candace Buford has created a guide to doing what feels right to speak your mind and make your opinions heard. Kneel is quite good as an empowering take on student activism. High school senior Russell Boudreaux is at the top of his football game and looking for a college scholarship as a way out of his small Louisiana town. But when a fight breaks out before the coin toss of a game against their rivals, his best friend and fellow team c When viewed through the lens of a poignant take on activism, Candace Buford has created a guide to doing what feels right to speak your mind and make your opinions heard. Kneel is quite good as an empowering take on student activism. High school senior Russell Boudreaux is at the top of his football game and looking for a college scholarship as a way out of his small Louisiana town. But when a fight breaks out before the coin toss of a game against their rivals, his best friend and fellow team captain is arrested. None of the white students on the opposing team are charged. At the next game, Rus feels compelled to take a knee, as Colin Kaepernick did in the NFL, but it leads to him getting benched and his family questioning his desire to get into college and get out of their dead-end town. As a Kaepernick fan, this was a must-read for me and I will buy Kneel for my collection. But now I'm going to get critical. The setting of this book is crucial because what happens in Lousiana DOES NOT happen in New Jersey, where I live. Here we have community policing which challenges the premise of this book, namely that police have it in for Black men. And I don't disagree that it happens, but I say this as a caution for others who may purchase this book and live in a place where blue lines are painted down Main Street. This book will see its share of haters. But I'm taking this point of view - Buford shows fear in a way that you don't often see. It may cause a few light bulbs to go off and create a few allies. My favorite character was Rus Boudreaux's mother - you aren't looking at a stereotype of a Black woman here, but you are seeing a mom. A kind, caring, cautious mom who just wants to see her son safe. It gives the story that twist that makes it relatable beyond the movement. Lastly, this may just be me being critical, but football fans might see a few plot holes. From a reader's advisory point of view, this book is for the activists, not the reluctant male readers who wear jerseys every day.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather Jennings

    Russell Boudreaux is a promising tight end on his Louisiana high school’s football team and best friends with Marion, the quarterback. His school is underfunded compared to the other school nearby, segregated by redlining. His goal is to reach college through an athletic scholarship. After a hateful incident before a game, consequences are unfairly meted out and his best friend pays a steep price. Russell has to decide whether he wants to confront the inequities and consequences or play it safe Russell Boudreaux is a promising tight end on his Louisiana high school’s football team and best friends with Marion, the quarterback. His school is underfunded compared to the other school nearby, segregated by redlining. His goal is to reach college through an athletic scholarship. After a hateful incident before a game, consequences are unfairly meted out and his best friend pays a steep price. Russell has to decide whether he wants to confront the inequities and consequences or play it safe to chase the college goal. Russell’s internal struggle on potentially taking action is a refreshing take as so many characters in YA are so immediately sure. Students may relate to the feeling of paralysis and anxiety surrounding such a decision. Also interesting is the lack of support from the coach and his father, both encouraging him to take the safe route. Along the way, Russell repairs his relationships with a girl he left behind in 9th grade and with his best friend Marion. My biggest qualm with the book is its predictability (Of course, the friend is vindicated. Of course, Dante’s Shadow turns out to be who we predict it is. Of course, Russell achieves). The coach also talks a bit like Yosemite Sam which felt odd. The knowledge of football plays I assume is correct, but I cannot speak with authority on that. I also wonder if the digs at Clemson were rooted in something with which I’m unfamiliar (the Swinney news item?). Despite these issues, I found the book to be an enjoyable read, and I imagine that students who are sports fans will be drawn to the text. Thank you NetGalley and Inkyard Press for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Caylie Ratzlaff

    Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this novel. 4/5 stars. While many, MANY novels have come out surrounding the BLM movement (all of which have been fantastic, harrowing, and eye opening) there have been few written from the perspective of a black man, and even fewer written from sports. Based on the kneeling during the anthem from Kaepernick, this story follows Rus and Marion, two black HS football players from Louisiana, who find themselves in the midst of what they only had Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this novel. 4/5 stars. While many, MANY novels have come out surrounding the BLM movement (all of which have been fantastic, harrowing, and eye opening) there have been few written from the perspective of a black man, and even fewer written from sports. Based on the kneeling during the anthem from Kaepernick, this story follows Rus and Marion, two black HS football players from Louisiana, who find themselves in the midst of what they only had ever read about on the news. This story kind of reminded me of All American Boys and THUG, but was unique with the sports element thrown in. Rus' family can't afford to have him throw away his shot at football -- his ticket out of their town -- but Rus is tired of holding back his voice. Tied in with an English teacher who inspires them to use their voice and Gabby who inspires Rus...this novel had me pulled in. I will say it took a while to get into, just because 1) I don't do football and 2) I was really irritated with everyone reprimanding Rus for his choice to kneel because god forbid things happen to football. While it gets explained, I think it did the point of the novel some disservice. They focus on silence is violence, but it takes until the end of the novel for people to let up on Rus and his decisions. I also think the romance with Gabby was slightly unnecessary. Overall, 4/5 stars for a debut. I'm looking forward to recommending this to my students -- especially those who play football.

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