Short Takes


SOCCER DAD: A Father, a Son, and a Magic Season

By W.D. Wetherell. Skyhorse. 288 pages. $22.95.

This book is a big, wet kiss for soccer, by a novelist father who uses his writing skills to chronicle his son's high school senior season and his own fascination with the sport.

W.D. Wetherell, who played high school soccer himself, writes “American soccer needs, badly needs, a book of pure celebration.” He complains that most writing about soccer in the U.S. “takes either a defensive, prickly stance or a condescending, dismissive one.”

In “Soccer Dad,” the author delivers a book that will be embraced by soccer fans who share his belief that soccer is a beautiful game. He calls soccer a sport for boys “too small or too smart for football.” He is so soccer-smitten that he even rhapsodizes about the different sounds a ball makes when well or poorly struck.

Wetherell's son, Matt, is a defender on the 2007 Hanover High School team that is seeking its third straight state title. It is a talented team of soccer-obsessed kids in what Wetherell describes as the “cranky, eccentric state” of New Hampshire.

Wetherell doesn't bog down his narrative with game details or soccer rules. He correctly assumes that anyone reading “Soccer Dad” already knows the game. Instead, he takes forays into interesting subjects such as college recruiting, “the soccer-parent subculture” and the open obsession of upper-middle-class high school students for getting into prestigious colleges. These side trips are wound throughout the story of the soccer season. -- Craig Smith, Seattle Times



By Allegra Goodman. Razorbill. 280 pages. $16.99.

What if the most dire predictions about global warming came true? What if the ozone layer disappeared, the polar ice caps melted and the Earth flooded, killing 90 percent of the world's population and subjecting the remaining few to disease, warfare and famine?

That's Allegra Goodman's intriguing scenario in her first science fiction novel and her first novel for young adults. Survivors live on a smattering of former mountain peaks – now islands – in a “country” run by a corporation. Individual movements are monitored. Who makes the rules? Which actions are acceptable or unacceptable – the corporation's or the individual's? Those are the questions facing the tween heroine, Honor, in this post-apocalyptic coming-of-age story.

A dark vision rendered in wonderful and imaginative detail, “The Other Side of the Island” is a cautionary tale that will likely be embraced by left-leaning, politically aware and environmentally conscious teens and adults, regardless of whether they read sci-fi. -- Susan Carpenter, Los Angeles Times


THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTMAS, by Rick Warren. Three gifts of Christmas.

TRAITOR TO HIS CLASS, by H.W. Brand. A biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

DIVINE JUSTICE, by David Baldacci. Oliver Stone returns in a Camel Club thriller.