I think Pop is possibly Gordon Korman's best book yet.
I found the novel compelling and heartfelt. His story includes some elements that are standard fare in high school football stories: the beautiful cheerleader, the handsome quarterback(s), the after-the-game-parties and the fierce and crusty football coach. Korman takes the tale in a different direction though. The title has multiple meanings. The word "pop" plays as a sound, a feeling, a verb, a noun meaning father, and a nickname.
I live in a town where one of the local high schools has repeatedly won the state football championship (5A) so I have seen the pride and can imagine the closeness of the team.
Newcomer Marcus just wants to play football. He practices alone, every day in the park, preparing for try-outs. One day he meets Charlie, a guy old enough to be his father but with the ability to catch passes and throw them like a pro. They meet daily to practice throughout the summer although Charlie's behavior is odd and even erratic at times. Marcus is good and the daily workouts with Charlie are making him even better. Marcus comes to crave "the pop" of the hits. Football is a team sport though and breaking-in to the tight-knit group that played a perfect season the year before, is not easy. Troy, the QB resents him, especially when his ex, Alyssa shows in interest in Marcus.
The mystery of Charlie's identity is tipped to the reader and Korman builds some nice tension between the characters and the reader as we all realize what is going on. Korman does a great job of showcasing the game plans, the plays, the hard pops and the camaraderie of the team. He also layers on the poignancy and tragedy of family situations that no one should have to endure. Marcus and Troy have more in common than they know.