Saturday 2 July 2022

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Review: Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler

A photo of a stack of three books - from top to bottom, Under the Lights, Behind the Scenes, and Cool for the Summer, all by Dahlia Ader - on and in front of a Progress Pride Flag. Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler is stood upright ontop of the stack, slightly over the the right. Partially slid behind Home Field Advantage is a print of a cheerleader doing the hair of a female quarterback.

Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler

Published: 7th June 2022 | Publisher: Wednesday Books | Source: Bought
Dahlia Adler’s Website

Amber McCloud’s dream is to become cheer captain at the end of the year, but it’s an extra-tall order to be joyful and spirited when the quarterback of your team has been killed in a car accident. For both the team and the squad, watching Robbie get replaced by newcomer Jack Walsh is brutal. And when it turns out Jack is actually short for Jaclyn, all hell breaks loose.

The players refuse to be led by a girl, the cheerleaders are mad about the changes to their traditions, and the fact that Robbie’s been not only replaced but outshined by a QB who wears a sports bra has more than a few Atherton Alligators in a rage. Amber tries for some semblance of unity, but it quickly becomes clear that she’s only got a future on the squad and with her friends if she helps them take Jack down.

Just one problem: Amber and Jack are falling for each other, and if Amber can’t stand up for Jack and figure out how to get everyone to fall in line, her dream may come at the cost of her heart.
From The StoryGraph.

The StoryGraph | Goodreads

I've been intrigued by Home Field Advantage by Dahlia Adler ever since it was announced she had written a story inspired by a photo of a cheerleader doing the hair of a female quarterback. The photo is brilliant, that an American school had a female football player, and I love the fact that it inspired a sapphic story. The story itself was brilliant!

Amber has got her sights set on becoming captain of her cheerleading squad in senior year, and the scholarship it should bring, so her junior is all about making that happen. Supporting her friends on the squad, coming up with ideas, being a leader. It does not involve letting anyone know that she isn't straight. But that becomes more difficult when the football team's new quarterback is ridiculously hot - and female. Jack, the new quarterback, just wants a chance to actually play football. It's her passion, and she didn't have a chance back home. Being offered the opportunity to do so at Atherton High, she jumped at the chance, splitting her family in two, while her dad and brothers stayed home, and her mum moved with her, and leaving everything she knows behind her. She has got to make this work, prove that this was a good move for her, that splitting up the family was worth it. But it turns out that no-one informed the football team or cheerleading squad that their new quarterback is a girl - and no-one is happy about it. Their former quarterback died during the summer, and they've all put him on a pedestal, and they're replacing him with a girl?! No-one wants Jack there, and they do all the can to make sure she knows it. Beautiful cheerleader Amber is the only person who's nice to her. As the attraction between them grows, the animosity towards Jack from everyone else does, too. But if Amber wants to be captain next year, and get her scholarship, she can't be seen to support a quarterback the rest of the squad is against. But with the school's misogyny getting worse, Jack finds it difficult to accept the only person who supports her will only do so in secret.

I have to say that I was nervous about reading Home Field Advantage. I bought it because I'm a big fan of Adler and all the work she does to promote LGBTQ+ books and to help readers find the books they're looking for, and because I've enjoyed her previous books, as well as being intrigued. But this is a sports romance, and I have absolutely zero interest in sport. I also don't know anything about American football. Was I going to enjoy this story? Was I going to understand what was happening? The answer is yes. Home Field Advantage focuses more on the characters, the relationship, how they're treated than on either American football or cheerleading. There are two on page games in the whole book, the first being fairly short, and few on page cheers, and Adler writes in a way that you're able to understand what's happening even if you know nothing. So with that fear out of the way, I was able to fully revel in the story.

And revel I did. Home Field Advantage is so, so good! It's the perfect balance of light and fluffy, and more serious topics. The growing romance between Amber and Jack was just too cute. their flirting, their support of each other, their funny little moments. I could not help but root for them. But there were definitely problems. Amber is Jack's only joy off the field. She is completely ostracised at school; no-one has a kind word to say to her, people go out of the way to make her feel left out and unwelcome, and she is constantly criticised. IT's also pretty clear that Jack is a lesbian, and people are quite openly homophobic, without actually saying anything that would get them in trouble. She is miserable. Amber can see it, and hates what is happening. Her best friend on the squad Cara is so vehemently against Jack, and Amber is just at a loss as to why people find it so difficult to accept a female quarterback. The team is finally doing well, when they were complete crap before. And everyone's acting like Robbie, the quarterback who died, was some kind of saint, but he was awful. She simply doesn't understand it. But to be too supportive of Jack publicly, when everyone on the squad wants her gone, would ruin her chances at being captain. And she needs to be captain, if she's ever going to get a shot at a scholarship, if she's ever going to get out and be able to live out, without dealing with her town's homophobia. She has worked so damn hard to get where she is, and her squad is family to her. It sucks what's happening to Jack, more than sucks, but if she loses her chance to become captain, what then? What future does she have? And while Jack gets it to a certain degree, she just finds it so difficult that she's getting all this crap from people, and no-one is going to a damn thing about it for her.

I really felt for both of them. I was beyond frustrated with Amber at times, but I also got where she was coming from. It was just such a really difficult situation for both of them. But there are still gorgeous, light, happy moments! I loved Amber's friendship with Miguel, one of the guys on the football team. He is gay, and only out to Amber, who is polysexual, and out to him. They have a fake relationship going on, because Miguel really needs no-one to know he's gay. He's in a relationship with Malcolm from another school, and there's a point where there's a double date with Amber and Jack, and Miguel and Malcolm, and it was just the cutest! Speaking of sexuality, Jack generally refers to herself as gay, but does call herself a lesbian at one point, and as mentioned, Amber is polysexual. I hadn't come across polysexual before - which means being attracted to various but not necessarily all genders - so it was so awesome to see the rep, and to have Amber explain it.

'"For a while I thought I was pansexual was the right label for me, but I just... can't seem to get into cis boys. Girls? Very much! Nonbinary people? Definitely! Trans guys? Absolutely. But then a cis guy flirts with me, even a really rare good guy like Austin Barrett, and I am so, so not into it." Her fingers twist around each other like she needs something to do with her hands, and I think about reaching out to take one, but it feels like she needs her space to process. "According to the wisdom of the Internet, 'polysexual' is the best fit, so that's what I'm trying on right now. In my head anyway."' (p191)

I absolutely adored the ending! Especially that final game. It is hilarious to me how I, someone who has no interest in sport, was sitting on the edge of my seat over this game and really, really wanting it to go well, and getting fully into it, thinking, "Come on, come on!" while reading. Adler created such tension for a game that I barely had a grasp on; I mean, she made it accessible enough to understand, even though I didn't know what some of the terms meant, and had me caring about something I have no interest in generally. I Was there genuinely excited and nervous and raging at some players, and just urging Jack and some others on. Me. It's ridiculous. But it's a testament to Adler's writing. And I'm much more likely to consider sports romances in future now.

I just absolutely adored Home Field Advantage. Honestly, I think it's my favourite Adler has written. It's so cute and heart-eyes-emoji, but also had me raging over Jack's experiences. I loved it, and can't recommend it enough! And I can't wait for Adler's next book coming next year, Going Bicoastal!

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