Cover Image: Kneel

Kneel

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Member Reviews

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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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.
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Kneel is a great book to open about conversations about racism and standing up for your beliefs. I know there will be students who “won’t/don’t read”  who WILL read this once I tell them it is kind of like the CW All American series!
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Russell and his best friend are on track to be awarded football scholarships to go to college away from their small Louisiana town.  When a rival team starts a fight with them on the field, Rus's best friend is arrested and kicked off the team.  While fighting for justice for his friend, the police begin to threaten Rus and he takes a knee to protest against police brutality, racism, and unjust arrests.  #silenceisviolence
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“Silence is Violence.” 5 stars for Kneel by Candace Buford. A powerful story about racism, injustice, and expressing yourself.  Every character responds in a different way to the events occurring, keeping the reader on their toes. @NetGalley @candacebuford
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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 <spoiler>for example, the town's response at the end</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.
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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.
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Buford launches the conflict in this novel and then just keeps raising it higher and higher. I appreciate the nuance and doubt the main character conveys. He' wants to do the right thing, but it's hard. It's difficult to know even what the right thing is sometimes.
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This was an excellent book and very timely.  The characters are believable and very likeable.  I would recommend this title not only to teens but to adults as well.  Its likely to start some much needed conversations.
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Poignant and timely, this novel centers on two young black high school football players that find themselves in the middle of a small town’s racist breakdown. As their side of town struggles with the murder of a local black man by a white cop, the teens are faced with their own issues.  A fight during a football game leaves one of them suspended and arrested - his life, football career and possible way out of town and poverty on the brink. The other struggles with his friends unjust arrest and takes a knee during the National Anthem, threatening his own future and that of his family. What spurns from these moments is a deeply thoughtful novel that covers very real issues and covers them well.
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Kneel by Candace Buford is an important novel in today’s day and age. Taking real life events and making it relatable and tangible is a hard task but Candace Buford does it seamlessly. kneel makes you want to fight along side Russell and be apart of the change.
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I was given an ARC of this book that releases in September and it is definitely one I will be ordering to put in my classroom. Buford tells the same story of racism in a small town, white privilege, and black boys dying on the street just because they are black. Rus and his friend Marion are a tight-end, QB combo that are expected to slay their senior year and go on to D1 schools. Then Marion is unfairly arrested and charged (while the white boy who started it goes free) and suspended from the team. Rus tried to fight for his friend as well as fight for justice. I hate this story, this story that I have read so many times. I wish authors like Buford did not have to keep writing this story, but as a theme in this book says “silence is violence.” I really enjoyed Buford’s writing and the book over all.
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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.
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A must read--"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?"  Look for its September 2021 release!
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Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. I am a little torn on how to review this book. I love a book about sports and I was interested to see how the author handled the intersection of football and racial justice in the South. Some parts were done really well. For example, you could really feel the anger and pent-up violence in the crowd at the football game where the initial incident occurred, and the bond between Rus and Marion was definitely believable. Unfortunately, a lot of the rest of the book was very predictable and slow. I was left disappointed by the end because there were no surprises or twists that would make this book memorable.
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Russell Boudreaux is a captain and star tight end on his Louisiana high school football team. This year he plans on helping his team go all the way, especially after suffering a brutal loss to his school's closest rivals in last year's playoffs. As in navigating the normal high school life and grueling football season wasn't enough, Russell's world is rocked when there is a shooting of an unarmed black star basketball player in a neighboring town. No charges are filed against the officer; rather, he is simply transferred to the station which monitors Russell's town!

Racial tensions are high, but come to a head when a pre-game altercation occurs between Russell's team and their all-white rival. Punches are thrown, the game is called, and only Russell's star Black quarterback, Marion, is arrested. Russell simply can't believe the injustice of it all when it was clear that it was the white players who started it, not to mention the white officials who said nothing when the white police made the arrest! 

After Marion's suspension amid criminal charges, and the murder of the star basketball player, Russell makes the decision to make a silent protest. He kneels for the next game's National Anthem.  While it is a decision made with only the best of intentions, the consequences of this singular act will alter not only his life and future, but that of the whole town!

This is really a thought-provoking book. I am really curious to see and hear what my students think about it once it is released!
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A beautifully written exploration of the difficulties inherent in balancing the desire to take a stand against injustice with the necessity of surviving in an oppressive society.  The blossoming romance between Rus and Gabby adds an element of joy to the book.  The story is fast moving and the characters compelling and relatable.  A must read!
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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.
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Timely, appealing story addressing race relations and disparities with well-developed characters, “Kneel” will not remain shelved long.  Football may be the hook to get some readers interested in  it, but many high school students will relate to the plight of Russell and Marion.  I plan to do a book talk for students to entice them to make this selection.  It will be one of the offerings for our students to select from when they choose the Book Club monthly selection.  Thanks #NetGalley and #InkyardPress
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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.
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