“Mercy Rule” by Tom Leveen: Intense and Heartpoundingly Good

Danny’s parents yanked him from the art school that let him wear a kilt and listen to bands that no one’s heard of. Now he’s starting sophomore year at the public high school—the one with the gymnasium at the heart of the building and the glorified athletes who rule it all. The smart thing would be to blend in, but Danny has always been about making statements.
Brady just wants to get out. Go to college, play football, maybe reach the NFL. He definitely wants to stop waiting for his deadbeat mother to come home, sleeping on park benches, and going to bed hungry. But first he has to lead the team to the championships. It all adds up to a lot of stress. So who can really blame him when he and the football team turn their aggressions on the new freak? Even the quarterback needs to blow off steam sometimes.
Coach turns a blind eye to his players’ crimes—because this year, they’re going to State. But maybe if Coach had paid more attention they could’ve caught it before it all happened. Maybe it could’ve been avoided.
With quick cuts between a large cast of unforgettable characters, and razor-sharp plotting, Tom Leveen takes readers on a countdown to an inevitable, horrifying act. This gripping novel offers an intense, smart perspective on the tragic, toxic mindsets behind the celebrated American sport and the monsters it creates

This novel is not for the faint of heart but for those of us who care, this novel will engage you like no other. Tom Leveen has created memorable characters who are complex and riveting. Even when they make terrible choices, as only teenagers can, with black and white finality, there is something in his words that makes you unable to stop reading. As the description states, the story builds to one horrifying act but along the way, you quickly care about each person involved. Tom builds a story that beat for beat creates a world that many of us remember from our own days in high school and for some of us, is one that the young people we know are still encountering. The toxic nature of bullies, of hate and self destruction, those are the true enemies in this story. And one that Tom depicts so well, so intensely that you are immersed in the novel after the first page. It is both heart-stopping and intensely good.

Part of what builds the intensity is Tom Leveen’s adept use of different points of views, feeding the reader just enough information but still building mystery and intrigue over the connections between the characters and the events of the story. You can feel the lightning intensity of the actions even though it is a work of fiction and yet, you cannot put down the book because you have to know the next event, the next action. And when it comes the conclusion will leave you reeling but will provoke thought, provoke us all to look at the environment around us in a new way. This is a work of genius that simply put, needs to be more widely read. It highlights the truth behind school violence in a way any person can understand and does so in way that can only build empathy and understanding, hopefully preventing the very act of violence it depicts, if there are those who will heed the message in the pages.

If you have a child, if you are involved with children or teens, or if you just care, read this novel. It is both intense, amazing and eye opening.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

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