Hello, and welcome to a new series I’m planning on starting here at ImpishIdea, where I will write, hopefully regular, reviews of books that I am either reading, or have read previously.
It does take a lot to disappoint me (congrats Inheritance and Twilight), and I do generally enjoy looking on the bright side of a lot of books. Hence why I might review books higher than some, so please bear that in mind if you know your standards are higher. I read all kinds of genres: SF, fantasy, crime, action, mystery, historical etc. although there will probably be of a bias towards fantasy and SF, can’t change my roots, heh.
The rating system will be pretty standard, out of five stars, but because we are a literary themed website, it is far more appropriate to use books instead.
And so, to our first book…
Keeper by Mal Peet
“I tell you this: you will do things that now seem impossible now only because you cannot imagine them. Because you do not believe in them. But you will do them, and afterward you will be amazed that you ever doubted yourself. Now, let me ask you that question. Which are you? Are you the jaguar or the deer?”
“The jaguar,” I said. What else could I say?
Without having first read Tamar (more on that later) also by Mal Peet, I don’t think I would have even considered reading this book. I am glad that I didn’t know what it was about before I got Keeper (and its sequel, The Penalty), because I don’t think even Peet’s name would have enticed me to read it. A book about football? The most interested I ever am about football is
when Thierry Henry is around… drool during the European Championships and the World Cup, mostly because it is fun to cheer along with fellow Britainlanders. I know nothing about the finesse, or skill that football requires, and the offside rule is way, way, WAY beyond my ken.
In premise it sounds absolutely ridiculous: a ghost footballer from the jungle teaching an Ambiguous South American Country kid how to be a goalkeeper. I was very sceptical at first, and even now it makes me laugh, but I found it to be a pleasant read.
El Gato, a world famous keeper, has just secured the World Cup for his team. He is being interviewed by Paul Faustino, a veteran football reporter. Throughout the night of this exclusive interview, Gato tells Faustino his story.
Brought up in a village on the edge of the jungle, at 13 years old Gato soon quits playing football with the village boys, as he is gangly and clumsy. Whilst the boys play football, Gato takes to wandering in the forest and finds a clearing with a goal set up, meeting the ghostly Keeper. Taken under his wing, and through harsh training, Gato’s innate skill as a goalie is revealed and honed. Talented-spotted, Gato leaves for the city, and the national team, but he never forgets the Keeper and his secret.
Whilst not a great feat of literature, Keeper is enjoyable, even to those who have little interest in football. The writing is solid, akin to Anthony Horowitz’s style, it’s in too much of a rush to worry about purple prose. Yet this isn’t a bad thing, like Horowitz (and Applegate), the precise writing is enough to set the scene, and the story does run away with you. It is left up to the reader to really create and imagine the world in their heads. However, the writing does tend to favour the melodramatic, especially at the end of chapters. It’s like every chapter ends with someone standing behind you going DUN DUN DUUUUUN! Although this is great for soundbites, it does become a bit cynically tiresome after a while.
Although it is very much a tale of two characters (even then, the Keeper doesn’t get much of a look in), the characterisation is also solid, Gato is presented as the typical Arthurian knight: brave, true and honest, and above all, dedicated to his game. Yet, due to his initial constant self-doubt, Peet draws the reader in, wanting Gato to succeed and to realise his own talent; the classic underdog tale.
Although Keeper is quite obviously aimed at teenaged boys, it is nonetheless a story that will not disappoint the average reader. Whilst I wouldn’t exactly recommend you go out and buy it RIGHT NOW, if you’re stuck looking for a book at the library and want an easy read, you could do a whole lot worse.
Final rating: three out of five books
PS: Props go to my football-mad friend Craig for admonishing me about my football terminology in this review.
PPS: I may be football ignorant, but I do know that Thierry Henry can va va voom me anytime.
PPPS: Yes, this review was totally an excuse to watch that advert and say “va va voom”. Oh, he makes me smile.