My rating in stars: 3,5 stars
My rating in words: I liked it!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
MY THOUGHTS (SPOILER-FREE):
Confession: I’m not a soccer fan. Even big events like a World Cup, I just don’t care about. That’s not to say I won’t cheer on my country’s team when they are playing… I’ll just do it while reading a book or just doing something else. Maybe check my phone every once in a while to check the score. But actively spending 90 minutes watching a game? Sorry, no can do. And yet… I picked up this book about a soccer team and their soccer camp. Why would I do that? Turns out, there are a few things that’ll make me pick up a sports related book, and I’m happy to say that Running With Lions delivered on each of these:
Adorable romance. I’m a sucker for romance, okay? Give me all the cheese and I can read all about your training sessions and game strategies. So when you give me boys being soft for each other and even add in a lovely friends-to-enemies-to-lovers trope, I am ALL IN! Sebastian and Emir made me so happy. I swooned, I laughed, I cried and I blushed while reading this.
Friendship. Give me romance and I’m in. Add the most amazing friendships in and I’m in love. Because while the Sebastian and Emir romance is the cutest, it’s not the only relationship going on. Sebastian also has two best friends, Mason and Willie, who are at the soccer camp with him and their friendship is both filled with real-life issues and wonderfully supportive and cool at the same time. Plus, since Sebastian is kind of like the dad of the soccer team – he’s always taking care of everyone – there are lots of sweet friendships all around.
Diversity. What makes the Lions soccer team stand out is their diversity. Inpired by their coach who strives for a team where everyone is welcome and nobody is discriminated based on their sexuality, the entire team is wonderfully diverse. Gay, bi and curious boys are all around. Emir is a practicing Pakistani Muslim and his religion and the issues he’s had to face because of it are definitely addressed.
Music. Okay, this may not be THE deciding factor for everybody, but I love music. So when a book regularly mentions songs by bands I love myself? My already mushy heart gets a little mushier. So basically, this book hit all my soft spots.
Does this mean this book was perfect? No, there are some flaws for sure. I had a little trouble with the writing style. Some sentences were a bit clunky and the transitions between chapters were sometimes confusing. It sometimes read a bit like fanfiction to me, and I read somewhere (not sure if it’s 100% correct) that the author used to write fanfiction so this would make sense (not dishing fanfic – I love fanfic). Also, I didn’t like how one of the only girl characters was treated, in that she had a crush on a guy who treated her badly for so long and I felt it wasn’t adressed properly.
But overall, those flaws don’t matter all that much to me. Though I may only rate it 3,5 stars, what matters to me more than rating is feeling. And boy, did this book make me feel. So if you like any of the above, I definitely recommend Running With Lions. It was a strong debut and you can bet I’ll pick up whatever Julian Winters writes next, even if it’s again about soccer!
“And that’s the thing, life is sometimes just another day, and sometimes it’s moment after moment after moment that only paralyzes you if you let it.”
Sebastian rolls his eyes. ‘Guys aren’t-‘
‘Hey,’ Emir cuts in. ‘Guys are beautiful. And girls are handsome. Words aren’t gender-specific. Don’t be some jerk asshole about this.”
“Why do people let things so precious to them turn into dark, unbearable secrets?”
“Just because people create rules doesn’t mean those are your rules.”