Friday, August 7, 2015

Gail Pallotta Presents Stopped Cold - A Wonderful YA Tale of Sports and Steroids...And a Loving Sister...

"Thanks for being there for me,
Margaret. At least my failure to qualify
 for first string quarterback
isn't a stinger."
 What was he talking about?
 How could I help if I didn't understand?
 "What's a stinger?
 That feeling you sometimes get when
 you pull a muscle overdoing in sports?"
 "That too, but I meant a bad personality
 trait like a temper or a big ego.
Something that can upset other people.
For instance, I can't throw great passes,
but that doesn't degrade anyone else.
It's a shortcoming, not a stinger."
 I hugged him around the neck.
"You make people happy. You're the
 best whether you ever play first string
 quarterback again or not."
 We had each other.
"I'll deal with it." Sean lifted
his chin and marched up the
oak staircase.
This Saturday Dad perched in the rust and green-checked easy chair with his feet propped on the matching footstool. Wrinkles creased his forehead like rivers on a map, his grayish blue eyes cold. He glared at Sean who stood in front of him like a page having an audience with the king. The urge to rush in the den and tell Dad to stop upsetting Sean filled every fiber of my being. All I could do was stand outside the door and wait in the lonely hall with its cold parquet floor and empty beige wall. Sean shook his head. 
"Coach is taking me out, sir. I'm not winning enough games." Sunshine seeped through the mini blinds creating a peaceful glow that seemed out of place.
"Son, you'll have to get back that position. To clinch your college football career you need to be the number one quarterback for Meriwether Christian High."
Sean looked up and sidled around, probably to get out of Dad's line of view. "I had a meeting with Coach Rogers." Dad turned up his large palm and gestured. "Good. That's a start." Sean ranked at the top of his class, but he struggled with sports. He may have looked like Dad, but he inherited our mom, Kelly's, mediocre athletic ability.
"No, I mean I met with him when he told me he was replacing me as first-string quarterback." Sean glanced at me. I nodded to give him support. Sean shifted his weight. "A new guy, Harold Gravitts, will start. He moved here two weeks ago from Greenstown, North Carolina. You were there the last two games. You know we lost because I threw bad passes in the end zone."

Dad bounded out of the chair as though he'd been shot from a cannon and knocked the coffee cup off the walnut occasional table. "What can this guy do that you can't?" 
"He's no better than I am in scrimmages." Dad lowered himself into the seat and tapped his lips. "Hmm. Maybe he's a jock who holds back in practice, but Coach Rogers sees his special talent."
"I don't know what it is, but—"
"Of course you don't. You're not a coach." 
Sean wrung his hands. "He wouldn't have to be Super Bowl quality to have something on me." Sean's quivering voice pierced my heart. "I'm not a great quarterback like you were." 
Six-foot-three, Dad had earned the nickname Bullet when he broke the passing records at the University of North Carolina in the 1980s. Often when he introduced himself as Randolph Sean McWhorter, he'd grin and add, "aka. Bullet. I played quarterback at U.N.C." 
"Maybe you need more strength in your throwing arm. Lift more weights. Do whatever it takes to get back that position." 
Dad's humiliating words had to hurt Sean. Was Sean's heart falling to his toes like mine did when I had to confess something less than perfect? Seeing that disappointed look on Dad's face always hit me in the gut. Sometimes Dad teased me and cheered me up if I was sad. Mom said he worked hard to give us a good home, but he could make me feel as little as a worm. Did Sean feel that way now? Fists formed involuntarily at my sides as I swallowed back my fury. 
Dad picked up the coffee cup and peered at the coffee-soaked spot on the rust-colored carpet. "Just look at that mess." He rubbed his shoe across it. 
What about the stain Dad put on Sean's heart?

Stopped Cold

By Gail Pallotta

It's been years since I had the chance to read a novel by Gail Pallotta (Do click over and read review of Love Turns the Tide)  so I was happy to see a recent notice about her young adult book and grabbed it!

Stopped Cold is narrated by Margaret, a teenager with a brother, Sean, and a father who, as a former jock, who drives his kids to both succeed in sports as well...unfortunately...

Sean has been the quarterback for his local high school team and his father has already been guiding him to be prepared to move on to college ball, probably at his Alma mater, University of North Carolina... It all starts falling apart when Sean is suddenly replaced by a new student who has just entered Mistville. And his father immediately stresses to Sean that he must get the quarterback position back in order to be selected at the college level...

And Sean does exactly what his father wants--he does whatever it will take to get the position back...

But the steroid he had taken put him in a coma in the hospital instead...

"Sean's never had a health problem. He's an athlete. What caused this?" Mom asked.
 "I'm sorry to tell you, but we found Winstrol V in Sean's system." A hint of compassion rang in Dr. Salis's official-sounding tone. 
Mom's gaze grew distant. "What's that?" 
"It's an anabolic steroid used in veterinary medicine. It carries many adverse side effects, including kidney and liver dysfunction. In some people there's a risk of heart attack or stroke." 
Dr. Salis spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. "Why would anyone take it?" Mom's questioning voice trailed off.
Dr. Salis took a deep sigh. "It enhances athletic performance."
 "In what way? I can't imagine Sean taking something like that." Mom spoke softly as though she talked to herself. Dr. Salis raised his gray eyebrows. "Steroids build muscle mass and shorten the recovery time needed after strenuous workouts. Jocks who use them grow stronger and can practice more often."
Mom's eyes snapped open. Was she thinking of the pressure Dad put on Sean?
"I don't feel well. Margaret, would you get me some water?" Dad asked. He was as white as Mistville's winter snow. So fit, so strong, he rarely got sick, weak, or pale. Anxious over the sight of him, I bounded off the bed, grabbed one of the paper cups out of the dispenser beside the sink, and filled it... Mom's eyes snapped open. Was she thinking of the pressure Dad put on Sean? 
"I don't feel well. Margaret, would you get me some water?" 
Dad asked. He was as white as Mistville's winter snow. So fit, so strong, he rarely got sick, weak, or pale. 
Anxious over the sight of him, I bounded off the bed, grabbed one of the paper cups out of the dispenser beside the sink, and filled it...

But not win? He'd made aiming for number one a goal for Sean and me for as long as I could remember. If I weren't winning, would he still care about me? Anyway, I wasn't sure I  could turn my competitive drive off like a spigot.
Being known as the Meriwether Shark who won butterfly gave me a feeling of accomplishment and pride. 

Mom gazed at me, tears glistening in her eyes.  "Well, Margaret."
Poor Mom. How could she think I'd even consider drugs? She never would have imagined Sean would either. That's how.
"I won't take steroids, Dad. I promise."
"Good." Dad rubbed his hands on his knees as he often did when he ended a conversation and got up to do something else.
"Let's get back to the hospital."

Margaret also is a sports star--in swimming. She is the school's top swimmer for the butterfly stroke.

Margaret had an extremely hard time absorbing Sean's being in the hospital and not able to talk...Soon all she could think about was where and why Sean had taken the steroid... She hated what somebody had done to her beloved brother.

And that's when the book becomes a mystery! Margaret is determined to discover who had given him the steroid (and within herself she knew gain revenge. When the steroid was discovered, the entire family became involved with a special undercover investigator and he did ask for Margaret's assistance related to the school crowd...

He did not, however, realize that she had talked with two friends from school and they begun following leads that were being discovered... 

Margaret had overheard one of the jock groupies asking a football player if he was heading for the Temple. She realized that she was talking about an old log cabin that had once housed Buddhists priests. It no longer was used as a Temple and everybody had thought it was deserted... Jimmy, one of her friends also confirmed that he'd heard something about going to the Temple...
Jimmy flashed a wide smile. "No, but thanks." He thumped his fingers on the table. "It was after a scrimmage. A soccer player was talking to one of his teammates. He said, 'We can get steroids at the Buddhist Temple in the woods. If we beef up now next year we can play first string.' I don't know their names." Jimmy tilted his head. "I didn't know there was a Buddhist Temple around here." 
Emily sat straight up and snapped to attention like a soldier. "It's a log cabin built in the early 1900' s. Monks migrated here to live a reclusive lifestyle. It's deserted now. At least that's what I've been told." "Where is it?" Jimmy asked. 
"I don't know. I'm Buddhist, but I've never gone to it." Emily's voice trailed off as though she regretted her words. 
I didn't expect her to know where the temple was. I did fear more than ever someone had told Sean a bunch of lies to make him think he could out-perform Harold Gravitts, if he took Winstrol V... but who? If only I'd known, I would've told Sean not to take that junk. Football was just a game, a contest usually forgotten the week after it was played. Sean cared about people, and he was smart enough to make a difference in the world. I couldn't believe a steroid intended for animals may have robbed him of all the things he could do.

Pallotta has written a truly inspirational book about how a family grows and comes closer together after a traumatic experience. If indeed some of us believe that there is a plan controlling our lives, this book surely supports the type of miracles, power of prayer, and the strength derived through God's presence... At the same time, she hits hard and straight into the drug problem within American sports, especially, through the father of the family characters intense desire and pressure on today's children to succeed. And even more so, as the surprise ending catches everybody by surprise.

Highly recommended for both young adults and for parents and grandparents of teenage children. I'm one of those individuals in today's world that worries about the emphasis on talent and becoming "the best" for our young people. While I love to listen to or watch programs featuring young people sharing God's gift to them, I deplore the pitting of young people against each other for ridiculous sums of money as rewards...  And then creating star-struck children who follows extremist stars who will do anything to gain popularity and sell their image... Is this the future for our teenagers and children?

Kudos to Pallotta for presenting a though-provoking novel that forces all of us to examine what our children face from every corner of their lives!


Award-winning author Gail Pallotta's a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. She's been a Sunday school teacher, a swim-team coordinator and an after-school literary instructor. A former regional writer of the year for American Christian Writers Association, she won Clash of the Titles in 2010.

Her new teen book, Stopped Cold, is a best-seller on All Romance eBooks, finished fourth in the 16th Annual Preditors and Editors Readers Poll, and is a Grace Awards Finalist. She's published short stories in "Splickety" magazine and Sweet Freedom with a Slice of Peach Cobbler. Some of her published articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums.

Readers can find her on the internet on the staff of Clash of the Titles,, at her blog,, on her Web Site, on Authors and More on facebook at and twitter, Gail Pallotta @Hopefulwords

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