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Kneel

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Kneel by Candace Buford is the first book I've seen for YA readers that focuses on the subject of Black Lives Matter by pointing its attention into kneeling during the National Anthem to protest against police brutality. It takes place in a poor area of Louisiana where the community is mainly made of blue collar workers who live paycheck to paycheck, understanding their limitations due to the area they live in and the overbearing presence of the police whose prejudice is blatant and unapologetic. The recent murder of a young black man has everyone on edge, especially the teen boys who live there. The powerful football team in the community is the only way some of the characters see that they can escape, and the rivalry with a nearby white and wealthy school presents an ugly inequality between not only the treatment of the young men on the two teams, but the facilities and opportunities each has access to. With a mystery protestor posting flyers calling out the racist police force putting everyone on edge, the football team is treading lightly to avoid becoming targets. When the police brutality and prejudice gets out of hand, and the main character, Rus, decides to take a knee during the National Anthem to nonviolently bring attention to the issue. He never anticipates just how much controversy he will cause, even in his own family, not to mention the hatred of so many people around him. Much like The Hate You Give, Kneel places readers in a situation many of them will never experience, but one that all people can learn empathy from. As cases like Rus' and his teammate and friend Marion's appear daily on our TV screens and across our newsfeeds, it's so easy to become immune to them. This is a compelling book that will help readers gain insight and understanding into not only racism and prejudice, but also entitlement and continuing inequity. Kneel needs to be on a shelf right beside The Hate You Give and Dear Martin as must-reads for today's youth. It is most appropriate for high school, I . As middle school librarian, I'll wait to see what interest level professional reviewers assign it before ordering a copy, but if it's rated for grades 8+, I will definitely want to order it.
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When a book talking about an intensely important topic comes out in young adult fiction, you know that event will live on beyond the newsreels. This is not to say Colin Kaepernick and others who knelt in opposition to police brutality were just a news story. Their actions, like the actions of Russell here in Kneel, were meant to represent the civil anger that they knew many people would see and would include community leaders who would have more power to change the future. Kneeling became so controversial because those who would rather ignore problems were forced to face the consequences of those events in spaces they believed were untouchable. Russell shows that courage in his civil nonviolent protest to not only shed light on the injustice of his friend, but an injustice that had always been there and kept in the shadows.
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This book addresses not only awareness, but teamwork and supporting others. Institutionalized racism is all over, included team sports at juvenile/teen level. This would be a terrific book for a classroom discussion or a book club, with obvious comparisons to Kapernick and the BLM movement.
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You have a platform. You have people’s attention. Use it.

Candace Buford’s, Kneel knocks it out of the park! I am thankful to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sharing a copy of this beautiful rendering in exchange for an honest review. 

Russell Boudreaux is a senior at Jackson High School in Louisiana where he is a standout athlete and regionally ranked tight-end on the squad. His focus is two parts: 1) football and 2) to acquire a golden ticket out of Monroe on a division 1 scholarship. While Rus has a great shot at accomplishing both, the harsh reality is that not everyone will make it out causing concern for him and all those around him striving similarly. 

It is true that Rus has the support of his team, his family, and his community and yet the racial divides that separate Monroe and Westmond cannot be ignored. summer break, a white police officer shot and killed a Black kid for no reason other than looking suspicious. And at the start of the season, no action has been taken against the officer. 

Tensions come to a head when in a big rivalry game racial slurs are thrown and violence ensues. Police are involved and the arrest one of Rus’ teammates follows.  All of which creates issues for him and his plans and bring to light the ongoing struggles between the two communities. The question of justice and fairness come into play when students from Westmond who started the fight do not receive the same harsh treatment.

Faced with a desire to do something and stand against injustice, Rus takes a knee during the national anthem at a game and is criticized across the board. Not exactly the response he was hoping to receive but one that will change him and so many around him. Where he thought he’d be met with understanding and respect, instead he encounters hate on varying levels. 

The author does a really good job developing the main character. Throughout the book, we can see the tension between him and the people and things surrounding and the struggles he faces internally in trying to determine the right thing to do. At times he wants to stand up and fight and other times he is driven by acquiescence and keeping his head down, worrying only about himself. To tackle the complexities of these nuances and mirror them to Colin Kaepernick’s story… phenomenal.

Realistic fiction at its finest!
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I featured this book as a Book of the Day spotlight and included it in my weekly roundup and monthly post of new releases on my Black Fiction Addiction platforms.
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Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for this eARC.

Kneel is the story of what it’s like to be Black in Louisiana. Marion & Rus are involved in a fight on the football field with two white players. The police arrest Marion and let the white player go.

What follows is their struggle with trying to fight for what’s right, while staying out of trouble with an unjust police department. 

In the same vein at The Hate U Give, Kneel is a thought-provoking story that will resonate with teens. A solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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Kneel
by Candace Buford
Pub Date: 14 Sep 2021
This is a fairly quick read which brings a hot national topic to the high school football field. Rus has it all. He is a star football player on his way to a college scholarship-his one and only way to college. Then his best friend is unfairly targeted and accused because of the color of his skin. Rus makes a snap decision to kneel during the anthem in protest and his future crumbles in front of him. Was it worth standing up-or kneeling- for what he believed in? 
Great read for high schoolers.
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As a woman it's all to easy to spot the patriarchy. While mainsplaining is certainly annoying, it is seldom fatal (except in the ER but that's a post for another day). Living while Black is deadly and it starts so early. Kneeling while Black can end a career but sometimes people are brave enough to do it anyway.
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I am a huge fan of Colin kaepernick and have been following the protest from day 1. That being said this book was a pretty identical factionalized version of the story, I think it’s great for people that don’t necessarily know the story but to me I was bored
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Thank you, Net Galley, for the ARC of Kneel

There are a lot of Black Lives Matter books for young readers (thank God), but this takes the approach from young protesters; should they protest? or is it too dangerous? 

When your skin is dark in Louisiana, you know the chips are stacked against you. Russel and Marion do all they can to lay low until graduation. But when Marion is unfairly accused of a crime he didn't commit, Russel has to bring light to the situation. And just like Colin Kaepernick, he kneeled during the anthem which words did not apply to every American. 

Candace Buford did an excellent job bringing the topic to understanding at a middle grade to YA level and still lets it be important enough for adults to read. 

Recommended for grades 8 and up
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Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of Kneel! 

Wow, what a powerful book! It deals with some very timely themes that are front and center in the world right now, and it approaches them in a very real and thoughtful way. The characters are incredibly deep and sympathetic, and I felt like I was able to experience their lives and emotions as I was reading the story. I especially loved the deep friendship between Rus and Marion, and the author even got me to care about the football elements of the story (something that is hard to do, since I care very little for sports). This was such a well-crafted story that was able to be true to itself and not feel too heavy-handed with its thematic elements. Definitely recommend!
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Russell Boudreaux and his best friend, Marion, are stars of their school's football team. After a painful loss at the end of last season to their rivals, a neighboring rich white town, they've got something to prove. They both know that the only way to escape the racism and poverty in their  Louisiana town is a football scholarship to a big college. At the first game of the season, a fight breaks loose when one of their rival's white players says racist remarks and Marion, who is black, gets the full blame. He's arrested, charged with assault, and suspended for the season, which means no offers to play football in college. Rus knows his friend was wronged, but what can he do about it without endangering his own future?

I believe this is Candace Buford's first novel, and she has really hit the ball out of the park with this one. It's funny and sweet, while still telling a powerful and important story. Buford does a great job of portraying the life of a young black man in the South and the direct and indirect racism he faces. There are a lot of themes at play here: poverty, racism, morality, family dynamics, strong male friendships, and more. Buford juggles all of them with ease, to create a story that needs telling.  

I received this ARC courtesy of NetGalley, in return for my honest and unbiased review.
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I've been looking for books that talk about Colin Kaepernick and how he fought/fights for equal rights. I love how this can help my students introduce and understand this topic.
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Russell Boudreaux knows what life is like in southern Louisiana. Football rules and is the only opportunity for the poor black boys in his neighborhood. When a racially driven altercation with the neighboring white team leads to Russell's teammate being arrested, Russell decides that he can't stay silent any longer. But will kneeling during the anthem give him the voice he's seeking? Or will it only create more problems?

Kneel is a great football book that also looks at activism. I loved that Russell had his own reasons for kneeling that weren't just driven by Colin Kaepernick's actions, and that his teammates had mixed feelings about his choice. The incorporation of Ms. J's character was important and timely. I would have loved an appendix with the entirety of Russell's essay! An important book that will be devoured by some of our reluctant boy readers.
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Russell Boudreaux is relying on football to get him out of his small town.  He is well on his way until he makes a controversial decision that will change everything. 

Taking a knee during the national anthem has been a source of controversy over the last few years- a way to peacefully protest the unfair treatment of Black folks by the police has inflamed many in the nation.  In Kneel, Rus makes a split-second decision to kneel following the unfair arrest of his best friend.  Rus becomes a target for hatred and vitriol and must keep making the tough choice that may end his dreams.  Is an attempt to seek justice worth it?

Buford does an excellent job of taking a controversial issue and putting it in terms that young adult readers will identify with and be able to digest in a meaningful way.  I highly recommend this book to any reader who is interested in social justice (and really to those who don't think they are).
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I liked this book that leaned on the influence of Colin Kaepernick and many others to talk about activism among the unjust killing of Black men. I think that it will definitely resonate with kids and I thought that the characters were well developed.
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I thought this book was very well written and timely, with themes of social justice, standing up for your beliefs, even when it is an unpopular stance, and how a community can come together to fight racism.
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When practice runs late, Russell and Marion know that breaking down on the parish line between Monroe (their side of town) and Westmond (the wealthier side of town) is not the best spot to be. A few weeks ago the untimely death of teen Dante Maynard, who was killed by a white police officer for "looking suspicious," rocked the local black community. The fact that Russell's car could draw unwanted attention for its condition doesn't add to his limited options as darkness approaches. Instead of the cops, though, Bradley Simmons, a varsity football player from Westmond, pulls up in a shiny BMW, and he taunts Russell and Marion about last year's playoff whipping which ended with Marion being seriously injured and jeopardizing his football future. The pent up frustration doesn't end, and animosity explodes when Monroe meets Westmond at center field for the coin toss. Unfair, one-sided refereeing leaves Russell injured. To make matters even worse, the cop that killed Dante Maynard is on game security, and he takes Marion off the field in cuffs. Though Russell promises Marion he'll "handle this," the deck is stacked against the boys, their team, and their community. Due to his pending charges, Marion is benched and barred from the team until his situation is resolved. In an instant, his only way out disappears. Russell realizes the only way to take a stand is to take a knee, and the repercussions of his action are more than he imagined. If the only way out of his situation is through a Division I football scholarship, what lengths will Russell go to in order to earn his spot, and will he have to give up his beliefs to make it happen?

THOUGHTS: Timely and thoughtful, Kneel transports readers right into the racial tensions. Readers will feel for Russell and be angered by the actions and the lack of action from local authorities. A must have for high school collections, this title also would pair well with classics and other contemporary titles dealing with similar topics.
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Russell has the star factor. He’s a fearless football player with his eyes set on a Division 1 football scholarship. However, his hometown Monroe, La has a problem. A racial problem. Two football teams that are literally divided by one street. Russell finds himself in a crossroad and he is fed up with the racial issues in his town. His good friend is wrongfully charged and jailed after a incident on the football field. 

The author did such a great job with this storyline; it was realistic and raw. I didn’t think I would be able to finish because it literally depicts what is currently happening in the world now. But I continued to read and I finished so quickly. This book was a page turner, I needed to read this. The bravery and self determination of the characters was so admirable. The new generation of, “woke” was so evident and carefully described in this book. It literally brought me to tears to see how this football team came together and demanded change. The main character Russell was a hero, he had so much going for himself and he went with his gut instinct and stood firmly on his beliefs. This is a young adult book, but it can be read by any person of age. 

This book contains: racism, bullying, protests, child neglect, unlawful behavior, etc. 

I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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3.75 stars, rounded up. This was good, but not developed enough to be great. It built to the final game, but then just abruptly ended. No resolution within the community, and the epilogue wrapped up too quickly/neatly. I will buy it for reluctant readers because the subject matter is important and it moves quickly, but it isn’t strong enough for Battle of the Books.
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