Hit Count is a YA realistic fiction book about brain injury and the dangers of football. Arlo Brodie loves playing football, just like his brother, following in his footsteps all the way to the top. Hitting others, and getting hit back. Arlo becomes known as "Starlo," showing no mercy and helping to win games. As his personal life spirals downward, he pushes himself harder and harder, ignoring concern from the coaches. Despite the grueling headaches, blackouts, dizziness, and confusion, the cheering crowds convince him that he is fine. However, the brain can only handle so much.
This book largely expands on how football makes people violent. Football promotes violence, and Hit Count shows the story of two brothers who became almost addicted to the rush of adrenaline they got from tackling someone. All the time, Arlo would talk about wanting that rush, no matter the pain. Football shaped him into almost a sadist. The depiction was extremely accurate and almost scary. I loved it and the thrill!
I also loved the intense account of pain. Specifically, how he felt after every tackle. I have never seen a picture of pain quite like this, especially since he did not give in and cry or ask for help. It just kept building and building. I also enjoyed the conflict with his family and following in his brother's footsteps. It was fascinating to witness how once he saw a brother consumed by violence and doing everything wrong, to doing almost exactly what he was doing, not able to stop it. The cause and effect scenario relating to football was very loud and clear.
Even with the clarity of the theme, it lacked the clarity for Arlo. My one major issue with this book is the lack of guilt and reflection. Arlo never once says "I shouldn't have hit as hard," or "I should have listened to the coach," or "I should've payed attention to my body and stopped." It is inferred that he learned his lesson and reflects on his life, but he is so indirect about it that I find Hit Count's argument not as productive. It was very show and not tell. Usually that is a good thing, but I wanted more of him telling the reader what not to do, actually voicing to the reader the danger and not to push themselves. Again, the correlation to the changes in his personality and the personality of his brother was extremely clear to the reader, however it was not so clear to the character.
It was so good in the beginning and the middle, but I feel like the book fell flat at the end and failed to fully deliver its real message and warning to football players. However, I did really enjoy the book and its vivid descriptions, imagery, and emotion. Hit Count is a 5-star book up until the end, which is the real downfall; the lack of reflection and regret.
I recommend that you read this book for fun and for a firsthand account of pain. However, if you are interested in more of the seriousness of the theme, I recommend that you read Second Impact instead, which is more developed in theme, guilt, and life lessons.
Title: Hit Count
Author: Chris Lynch
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Rating: 3 Stars