The author of the Kicks’ series, the brilliant Women’s Soccer player and Olympic Gold Medalist, Alex Morgan, tries out in a completely different field: that of writing. A champion athlete who rose to FIFA fame in 2011 and struck gold in the London Summer of 2012, Morgan uses her unique talents to give her readers an insight into the world of soccer from a high-schooler’s POV. The first book was released in mid 2013, and since then the series has gained a steady, faithful fan base. “The Kicks” books showcase the themes of sportsmanship, rivalry and determination, in a delectable high school sports drama. From high-powered, nail-biting soccer matches to bittersweet childhood experiences, these books are a treat from beginning to end, and is no doubt partly culled from the author’s own high school days. Each book can be viewed as a symbolic reflection of one’s inner child, striving to escape anonymity and kick her way to stardom. Devin Burke (the lead character) is not just a girl that loves soccer; she’s every one of us.
The Kicks#1– Saving The Team
The first book in the series, Saving the Team, illustrates the merits of hard work and determination through the progression of the story. The series’ protagonist, Devin, is a bubbly 12-year old girl who’s enrolled at a new high school in California, when her parents move her all the way from the East Coast. Apprehensive of whether she’s going to fit into her new school’s soccer team (having heard great things about them beforehand) or not, she’s naturally disappointed when her new pals Zoe, Emma and Jessi inform her that the Kentville Kangaroos suck, and that the coach, Miss Flores, couldn’t care less about the players’ abysmal performances. Devin realises this herself while they’re holding tryouts on the school playground. Most of the players disgrace themselves, but Devin’s own impressive soccer skill earn her the Captain’s badge. She quickly vows to make a change for the better, by realigning the players’ positions on the field and scheduling practice sessions more frequently to help her teammates reach the peak of their performance. Devin shares captaincy duties with the irascible Mirabelle, and the two of them often clash when their ideas for soccer practice don’t mesh. However, as the story goes on, they come to a mutual understanding and decide to bury the hatchet. Both Mirabelle and Devin realise that working for the greater good is much more important than floating their individual egos. With her kind nature and engaging personality, Devin and her friends reach their ‘goals’ and become winners in more ways than one. The book explores the intrinsic values of friendship, bravery and courage to always follow the right course, irrespective of where it might lead. The target crowd is preteens and teens, but there’s no doubt that adults would love it as well.
The Kicks#2: Sabotage Season
The next book has a pleasant surprise for its readers in the form of a mystery. In Sabotage Season, the girls from Kentville Kangaroos fall prey to the devious schemes of the insanely talented (and rumoredly undefeatable) Pinewood Panthers, their rivals from another high school soccer team. The Panthers, who had already been giving them grief from the first book, have now sharpened their claws and jumped in with the intention of sabotaging their way to the top. Things get off to a smooth start: Devin and Co. are thrilled at the opportunity of participating in the playoffs. Devin is determined to make her team win; she spends hours reasearching, rescheduling and reconfiguring the team for optimum effect on the field. But someone’s enraged at the Kicks’ lucky break, and trouble soon start to brew. Devin’s gym bag vanishes from her locker without a trace, while her good friend Zoe incurs injuries from a mysteriously exploding soccer ball. Emma and Jessi are convinced that these events are just coincidental. Devin begs to differ. The Pinewood Panthers are suspected at first, but when are things really ever that cut and dry? A series of similarly-themed mishaps threaten the team’s chances, leading the Kangaroos to (rightly) suspect an insider job. However, the Kicks can’t be made to give up so easily; they keep up the soccer practices in the same pace at which they’re searching for clues to the mystery. The villain is discovered in the final few chapters, but their identity puts the Kicks in a dilemma as to whether they deserve retribution or not. The story goes along at a breakneck pace with loads of clues or red herrings to keep the reader hooked. However, keener mystery fans might be put off by the somewhat predictable conclusion.
Final WordsWith the publication of the series, Alex Morgan shows off her brilliance both on the soccer field and off of it. Not only does she come across as a consummate writer of children’s books, each of her offerings play out on a distinctly separate theme : in the first book (Saving the Team), Devin displays a precocious maturity of character when she doesn’t let her team wallow in despair after a particularly dispiriting loss out on the field. The second one (Sabotage Season) has all the elements of a delicious mystery, perfect for reading during the summer holidays. The books have heaps of dramatic moments, like when Devin and Mirabelle discover that their mutual jealously is debilitating to the team’s well being, they put aside their rivalry and shake on it. It’s their combined efforts that help the Kangaroos defeat the Pinewood Panthers in the hair-raising final round of the playoffs.There’s a healthy dose of humor as well, and the scapes that Devin, Emma, Zoe and Frida often find themselves in are downright hilarious. The books make a tough standing for Women’s Soccer, and ought to appeal tremendously to soccer fans worldwide. In fact they may go so far as to introduce the glories of soccer (or sports in general) to shy, introverted children. The vocabulary is aimed at a slightly higher age group (10-12) but this shouldn’t deter any of the voracious younger readers.Book Series In Order » Characters » Kicks