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Leverage Hardcover – February 17, 2011

26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sports novels don’t hit much harder than this. Sophomore Danny may be a rising star on the gymnastics team, but that figures little in his daily life, where his small size makes him a target for the school’s ruling class—the hormone-pumped, college-scouted stars of the football team. A minor grudge escalates until horrific revenge is taken upon one of Danny’s teammates. Coming to the rescue, however, is Kurt, a behemoth new fullback whose scarred face and stuttering speech hint at a past that puts him at odds with his teammates. Told from the well-drawn alternating perspectives of Danny and Kurt, this is not a book about steroids; they exist, and they exacerbate the strife, but even Kurt admits that they have some short-term benefits. Rather, this is a novel about being trapped inside a web of expectations, where one’s family, community, team, and future rest on the assumed perpetuation of the established social order. Sports fans will love Cohen’s style: direct, goal oriented, and filled with sensory detail. Characters and subplots are overly abundant yet add a deepness rarely found in comparable books. Drugs, rape, language, and violence make this book serious business, but those with experience will tell you that sports is serious business, too. Grades 10-12. --Daniel Kraus

About the Author

Joshua Cohen is a former collegiate gymnast who now lives with his wife in New York City.

More to Explore
Download an excerpt from Leverage [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (February 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525423060
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525423065
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joshua C. Cohen began writing "Leverage" after reading a news account of a horrific attack by a group of high school seniors on their fellow underclassmen. When the victims reluctantly came forward, instead of receiving offers of help, they were ostracized by the surrounding community for sullying the reputation of the school and causing a cancellation of the football season. Joshua's fascination with that part of human nature--the need to keep quiet when awful things occur and how that leads to victims getting wronged twice--is what started the whole story that eventually led to "Leverage."

Joshua C. Cohen grew up in Minnesota and was an avid athlete in many sports but he fell in love with gymnastics and devoted most of his time to training in that sport. Despite his intense effort, he discovered very quickly, when he walked on to the men's gymnastics program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that there was no way he was going to compete at the collegiate level. Joshua promptly walked himself right back off the team and chose, instead, to live vicariously as an elite level gymnast by rooming with and befriending members of the squad.

"Leverage" allowed Joshua a perfect opportunity to combine his love of both gymnastics and football into one story.

If you want to read more, please visit his website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By flamingo1325 VINE VOICE on February 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Short Version:
Gritty, intense and emotional, Leverage is a striking blend of friendship, bullying, and coming of age. With two stunningly well developed male protagonists and a setting that is easy for any reader to relate to and understand, there are some poignant and gutting truths presented throughout, both blatantly and subtly. Though upper YA in content and language, and holding some scenes that are hard to stomach, Leverage holds nothing back when it comes to realism and impact.

The Extended Version:
Danny is a sophomore late for puberty and small in size, but a beast in the gym and on the parallel bars. Used to being pushed around and bullied, Danny does what he can to survive the day to day in a school run by massive football jocks. He is quiet but friendly, despite his large sense of self perseverance even to the point of a fault. Danny is able to see other points of view, and generally understands the meaning of being on a team and loyalty. Despite this, however, Danny's weak and even hypocritical side is shown, fleshing him out into a multidimensional character. There are some scenes where he is admittedly someone to hate, but put in the setting Cohen has created and the build up to each of these events, his side is completely presented and understandable.

Kurt is misunderstood on so many levels, coming from a heartbreakingly rough past. Holding plenty of his own demons and baggage, he is the epitome of a gentle soul that has been broken a few times too many. He is huge in size, and certainly has hints of a darker side and a temper but as with Danny, Cohen has created the perfect blend of hints of danger and a side to dislike without letting it overrun the redeemable, respectable, and honorable sides of him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Fulmer on April 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Because the writing is good, I'll give it 3 stars, even though it really irritated me in places. I found the bad guys to be one-dimensional stereotypes (steroid crazed, sadist rapist football players, along with the win-at-all cost high school football coach, opportunistic foster mom, corrupt policeman). The "good guys" are stupid and/or cowardly for most of the book. Why would you go hunting (alone in the woods) with the evil guys that already want to kill you? Why would you finally take your evidence to the authority figure you trust the least? While incidents serviced the plot, they frustrated me as a reader wanting to sympathize with the protagonists. But the thing that grated on me the most was the bully/torture scenes (of which there are many) that went on and on and on....All of this builds toward a long-await, pent-up desire for a payoff, which I guess is good story-telling. Unfortunately, by the time we finally got to the ending, I mostly felt tired and manipulated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Karielle @ Books à la Mode on February 24, 2013
Format: Paperback
Sports fiction will always have a special place in my heart because it combines two of my favorite things: sports and... well... fiction (okay, shut up).

I grew up with Dan Gutman and Mike Lupica, but I think Leverage was probably my first venture into older teen sports fiction, and definitely my first one about football (which, might I add, is my all-time favorite spectator sport). I know by the blurb, it sounds like another Friday Night Lights, another head-butting, sweat-packed story about the strength that goes into football and the tough friendships formed along the way, but isn't--it definitely isn't. Leverage is much, much more: It's deeper, more tragic, and more grueling than any other sports novel I've read before, and it's an unexpectedly jarring, as well as unexpectedly hopeful story that everyone should be aware of.

There are so many different issues tackled in Leverage, including the nit 'n' grit of two very competitive varsity sports teams, the treacherous social structure of high school, and an unspeakable crime against innocence, that all throw outsider, Danny Meehan, into chaos. A determined gymnast and self-proclaimed "nobody," Danny knows better than to mess with Oregrove High's most powerful social circle: the football players. It hasn't been too long since I last cheered on my own high school football team in the stands, so I knew exactly the atmosphere, exactly the rush of the crowd, that Cohen portrays. I do feel his evocation is a bit exaggerated, because never have I met such mean high schoolers, nor such brutal teenagers, but then again, I'm no Danny Meehan; having never gone to school actually fearing for my safety, I've probably never noticed the great, disastrous social divide.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lulu on April 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Orginally published at: [...]

Title Thoughts: I like it.

Cover Thoughts: Love, love, LOVE. The veins popping out the of arm to the fist to RAGE in red. It's definitely an attention getter and I love it. There is another cover here and I think it really fits the book as well, but I'm already in love with this one.

WARNINGS: Some parts are difficult to read.

Woah. This's amazing, scary, heart breaking, and intense. It was even worse that it reminded me of my own school, where the people live for Friday night football games. Everyone knows the football players. Everyone knows that the coaches keep an eye out for them. Everyone knows that the coaches make sure then keep their grades up because they need to be in the game Friday. There was even an incident where a guy didn't pass the drug test. That automatically gets you kicked off any sports team. But we are talking football and that player was only benched for two games. So it really freaked me out to read Leverage and be able to see parts of my school in Danny and Kurt's school.

The writing was just stellar, if at times hard to read. There's no telling how many times I teared up or had to put the book down because I needed an emotional break. It took me longer than usual to read this book because of those emotional breaks. It was just unbelievable how it was all over a game. Sad part is I know first hand how believable it is because while it isn't like the school in Leverage (steroids), our football players do get special treatment because of a game. Football is all this small town has.

Even writing this, I tear up from the intensity and close-to-home feeling. But let's move on. The characters, Danny and Kurt, are just two very real kids.
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