Everything changes for 14-year-old Amanda just as she’s about to begin her freshman year of high school. She and her best friend Lena have always been inseparable, and they’ve always been a dynamic duo on the soccer field. Both girls are hopeful that they’ll make the varsity team in high school, but Amanda is stalled by Sever’s disease, a temporary disorder that causes immense pain in her heels and slows her down on the soccer field. It’s a huge blow to Amanda’s ego—and to her friendship with Lena—when Lena makes the varsity team, while Amanda is left behind to play goalie for the junior varsity.
The girls begin high school together, and Lena quickly becomes the center of attention, while Amanda fades into the background. Lena’s desire for popularity overrides her desire to maintain her friendship with Amanda, and the girls soon have a major falling out. Their separation gives Amanda time to think about what kind of person she really wants to be; she discovers that she has interests beyond soccer, and she realizes that she isn’t at all interested in going to parties and engaging in some of the risky behavior Lena seems so inclined toward.
Shutout is a fast-paced, exciting read. While it will appeal to sports and soccer fans, it is as much about growing up, making choices and being true to oneself as it is about the world of high school athletics. The end is exhilarating and satisfying, but it’s also realistic. As Amanda finds her place in the world, author Brendan Halpin manages to give young readers plenty to contemplate without seeming to offer heavy-handed advice. Shutout is a refreshing addition to the genre of realistic fiction for teens.