My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Friday Night Lights is the study of a town in the thrall of high school football. The players, parents, coaches, teachers all get a story component while the economic and racial pain looms in the background.
Is it good?
Well, yes and no. This is a well crafted book that is given to great tension and flowery language but can also shift gears to chapters of dry commentary and history. When comparing the game descriptions to the exposition about Texas oil, one can see the clear distinction in writing styles. When the book is good, talking about the people that play the game and the controversey's around them, the book is very good. When the book goes off topic into the economic turmoil of the region (a topic that does inform the story) it falls flat. I can see teenagers skipping large parts of this book to "get to the good stuff." I almost did it myself. Special mention to the author's technique of spilling people into the narrative. When it works, such as the former players in the last game, it gives a tension and gravity to the story. When it does not, such as when it gives backstory to people not involved with the program at all (fans) during the last game, it pulls you from the story and creates quagmires to slog through.
Why Was It Banned?
The language (especially the racially motivated speech) is unfiltered by these West Texas folk. The teenagers speak like teenagers and the racists speak like racists. Multiple quotes are more than enough to see why this book was objected to being taught in the classroom or included in a high school library.
Some themes may also be seen as objectionable, particularly the racism. While the book makes its position clear on the wrongness of judging a man by his cover, impressionalbe minds could turn a blind eye to the opposing arguments. Some parents may also be unwilling to let their progeny know of the good and bad sides of being a local celebrity. The passages of players running wild and getting off with little more than a slap on the wrist could be encouraging to some like-minded individuals. Conversly, I could see how the failures of these kids could lead to some students giving up both on and off the field.
A good book with a multitude of dry pages. Skates the line between a book a high school football player would finish and a book a high school nerd would read to take the piss out of their jock counterparts. As I said above, had I not been reviewing it, I would have skipped several parts of this book.