Is a New School a New Chance: The First Quarter
by B. J. Bartlett

"Standing there, with a smile on her face, and the sunlight shining through her hair, she was beautiful."

His friends call Jason Wilson a jock who's not a jock. True, this dreamy girl magnet excels in multiple sports, but he goes out of his way to associate with unpopular kids. Also, with his schedule comprised of advanced placement classes, he's a proud nerd. After an unfaithful girlfriend breaks his heart, school and football seem like they'll be enough to keep him busy, since he's decided to stay single for his junior year. But Jasmine Kibbler, a beautiful misfit cheerleader, soon tests his resolve. When Jason defends Jasmine against a clique of bullying girls, the two become staunch friends. Jasmine proves as sweet as she is pretty, winning over Jason's entire family. Still, he hesitates to use the l-word to describe their relationship. Then a jealous cheerleader tries to steal Jason from Jasmine, even as a disgraced quarterback repeatedly assaults him. Can Jason's bond with Jasmine weather this relentless hostility?

Despite his lighthearted theme, teenage author Bartlett has created characters who demonstrate that caring, deep-minded young adults do exist. Jason is scrupulously polite to adults, showing especially profound respect for women. The text praises Jasmine's beauty yet shuns the discussion of breasts, curves, or genitalia common among most romance novels. Bartlett shows insight beyond his years into the thought processes of protective parents. Jasmine's readiness to accept Olivia, Jason's adoring little sister, and include her in their fun is enchanting. However, given Jason's sensitivity to the treatment of outcasts and the feelings of others generally, it is jarring to note no fewer than six uses of the word "cripple" or "crippled" by both him and Jasmine as a joke after a football injury leaves him temporarily dependent on crutches. Overall, though, this charming novella displays Bartlett's unusually mature command of language and plot structure. It might inspire other teenagers interested in authorhood.

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