The Blurb On The Back:
Olá! I’m Jasmina Santos-Campbell (but you can call me Jaz). You’ve probably heard of me and my team the Bamrock Stars before. No? Well, you will soon because we’re almost famous!
Forming the Stars was my genius idea – you see I need to prove to Mãe (that’s my mum!) that I’m a football star so she’ll want to come back home.
The idea was the easy part, though. Now I’ve got a team of seven very different girls and we need to work together, to be taken seriously as footballers.
We are the DREAM TEAM and we’re going to show the world that girls CAN plan football!
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
10-year-old Jasmina ‘Jaz’ Santos-Campbell lives near Brighton with her Portuguese-Angolan fashion-designer mum (who she calls Mãe, which is Portuguese for mum), Scottish father (a carpenter for the council) and her older brother Jordan, who plays viola and piano and is the youngest member of the Brighton Youth Orchestra. Despite her best intentions, Jaz is often in trouble at school for giggling at unfortunate moments or not paying enough attention in class and sometimes because the awful Rosie Calderwood and her awful friends (known as the VIPs) deliberately gets her into trouble with the teachers.
When one such encounter with Rosie sees Jaz and her best friend Charligh Gorley not only lose out on the chance of the lead soloist role in the school dance club’s but also banned from participating in it altogether, Jaz is gutted. Her family were going to attend the show together and her mum was making a beautiful costume for the lead soloist so she hates the idea of Rosie getting to wear it. More importantly though, given that her parents have been arguing a lot recently, Jaz thinks that if she does well it will make things better.
Still, Jaz has always loved football more than dancing anyway and often plays with the Year 6 boys at lunchtime, where she’s better than most of them. When the awful Zach Bacon tells her she can’t join in anymore because the team is getting ready to play in a tournament, she’s even more upset than about the dancing. But then she finds a flyer for a girls under 11s 7-aside-tournament and decides that she’s going to put a team together. There are just a couple of problems she has to overcome – none of her friends are as football crazy as she is – let alone even played football before and there’s no one to coach them …
Even so, Jaz is nothing but confident and just knows that the Bamrock Stars are going to be massive – maybe even enough to get her parents back together after her mum moves out …
Priscilla Mante’s debut contemporary novel for children aged 9+ (the first in a series) is strong on the importance of organisation, teamwork and facing your fears and great at promoting women’s football while also tackling (no pun intended) the sexism that girls face in the game. However there are too many characters to get a real sense of who is who here and some quite stereotypical while the plot fairly predictable but I would still read on.
Jaz is an engaging character with a great, chatty first person voice. Mante does a good job of having her express her emotions to the reader as she goes through the various trials and tribulations, especially as she sees her parents going through a bad patch in their marriage. I think that many young readers will empathise with her sadness and desire to try and get her mum and dad back together and also how she thinks that it will happen if she is just somehow better or good enough. I particularly liked the scenes between her and her parents as Mante is even handed in giving both their experiences and how they relate to their daughter – her dad sharing her love of football and her mum being a cool, vibrant woman who Jaz definitely wants the approval of. One of the best scenes in the book is when Jaz shows how hurt she is after her mum and dad argue their way through one of her football games and her mum goes home early.
I also enjoyed how Mante tackles head on the sexism that girls can still face when they want to play football. Jaz’s enthusiasm for the game – and especially the women’s game – shines through on the page and I liked how she balances the shabby behaviour of Zach Bacon with his other team mates who think that Jaz is good and enjoy playing with her but won’t stand up to him. Also good is how the need to be organised and work as a team comes through on the page as Mante shows the girls working together to raise money for the tournament, supporting good ideas and everyone playing their part.
Unfortunately, one of the big issues for me in the book is that there are so many characters that Jaz’s friendships – especially with Charligh, who wants to be an actress – get a lost. I didn’t really get a sense of who the girls on the team were other than that Talia likes chess and Allie has a temper, which is a shame given that putting the team together and having them play together is a central theme in the book. Similarly, Rosie is a somewhat two-dimensional antagonist who is there to spark off plot and who hits the expected notes re her backstory. However, given that this is the first in a series and future books will focus on other girls in the Bramrock Stars, I suspect that this will all be worked through and Mante will bring the others into focus and deepen the relationships between them.
In addition, the plot is fairly predictable and I thought that the pacing somewhat lopsided with a lot of time spent on building up to Jaz wanting to put a team together compared to their training, coming together as a team and then playing in the tournament with the tournament in particular feeling a bit rushed. I also found the descriptions overwritten – we get the hair and eye colour of a lot of characters and we don’t necessarily need to know it – and it slows the pace. Again, I suspect that a lot of this is down to the fact that this is the first in a series and this is all information that will play out later but I did find it a bit stodgy at times.
My criticisms aside, I think any book that gets girls interested in sport and teamwork and shows different personality types is something to get behind and on that basis, I would definitely check out the sequel.
JAZ SANTOS VS THE WORLD was released in the United Kingdom on 27th May 2021. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.