Recruited follows Kadeem, the star quarterback of his high school football team. As a senior, Kadeem is starting to think about college and scouts have started taking an interest in him. Teller University, one of the best college teams, is particularly interested in him and begin actively trying to get him interested. It’s a dream come true for Kadeem–a great team that could all but ensure a shot at pro-football, hot cheerleaders interested in him, no worries about grades, money and meals…But when Kadeem learns that Teller’s recruitment policies are illegal (against the rules of the NAACP) and is asked to help catch Teller at it, he doesn’t know what he should do. Should Kadeem give up all the great things he can gain from Teller (and potentially scare away all recruiters in the process) to do the right thing?
A couple of years ago, reading this book I would have said it was a pretty good, standard YA book. The story is clear and easy to read, we see Kadeem first get drawn into the glamor of being courted by a football team and then step back and try to figure out what type of person he is. We also see Ty, his friend and teammate, handle the pressure differently as he struggles to earn a scholarship that would be his only way to go to college. But having read a lot of YA books recently, this book felt like it was lacking.
Kadeem (who I don’t think we ever get a real physical description of) lacks the multi-dimensional characters and world that more recent Young Adult books I have read contain. Sure it was a tough choice for Kadeem, but we barely had any sense of true struggle from him. The entire situation felt very black and white with no complexity. I think one of the things missing form the entire debate of what he should do were the effects of his actions. How would his choice affect his teammates? How might it affect his chances of being recruited elsewhere? Further removing any complexity from the situation was having Alyssa, the cheerleader at Teller that Kadeem liked, exposed as a liar (flirting with him only to get him interested in Teller but not truly interested in him at all) so early and easily. Wouldn’t the story have been more interesting if Kadeem didn’t know for sure? Then his choice about Teller would still be more difficult. There is even the potential for Alyssa to have pulled a “Ten Things”–started out with him for the wrong reasons but ultimately falling for him. Realistically, she is not likely to really fall for a high school student, but a high school student wouldn’t know that. Once the decision was made, everything else basically fell into place with Kadeem’s future as well.
I think that today’s best books are the ones that really dig into the characters and the ambiguities in the issues presented and that, ultimately, was what I felt was lacking from the book. It wasn’t bad, but it doesn’t leave me wanting to go find another book by Weyn.