Welcome to my stop of the War and speech FFBC blog tour! Thank you for giving me this opportunity! An huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this book.
Here’s my review! Let me know what do you think with likes and comments!
War and Speech
by Don Zolidis
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: May 5th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction
Sydney Williams knows how to be a loser. After her father was sent to prison for tax fraud, Sydney failed most of her classes and she was forced to move in a small apartment with her now divorced mother, who can barely afford their rent with her job at the mall.
Sydney hopes going to Eaganville will be a fresh start, but in her new high school everything is different, dominated by the speech team, an elite group, and the whole administration support the winner philosophy.
Right away Sydney becomes friends with Lakshimi, Thomas and Elijah, the school misfits, discovering how each one of them was hurt, in one way or another, by the speech team and their cruel coach.
Determined to do something against them, they decided to make a plan and destroy the team and their toxic ideology and corrupt regime from within, infiltrating Sydney.
Slowly Sydney and her friends begin to erode the team, sowing discord between teammates, unveiling ugly truths about them and their lies, spreading jealousy and resentment, even with the help of one of them.
A, sometimes, easy task, since they are really competitive and determined to do anything to win, spurred by the winner-takes-all ideology their coach has and the bullying he perpetuates, largely overlooked by the principal and the whole administration, as long as the school keeps winning, even at the expense of people considered losers.
But when Sydney discovers she can actually win and take back the chance to go to college she lost because of her father’s mistakes, she’s conflicted. Will she go on with their plan or will she take the chance and win?
War and speech is a witty and funny book and I really liked it! The plot is skillfully written and the characters, from the main to the side ones, are complex, interesting and impossibile not to love and cheer on, above all for Sydney, the main character.
Sydney is a complex character, using her humor and wit to hide her pain and rage and determined to be someone, to do the right thing, to move on from the life she was used to. Sydney and her mother find their lives changed when Sydney’s father’s crimes were exposed and he went to jail, leaving them to pick up the pieces.
Sydney can be mean, witty, angry, upset and I love her bickering and attitude and how she learns to believe more in herself and her friends, to see the truth about her situation and confront her own anger. Reading her gaining confidence was really beautiful and empowering. I really liked her relationship with her friends and, above all, with Elijah. Her relationship with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend is another hilarious one, because it’s full of bickering and jokes and attitude.
It was interesting reading how Lakshimi, Thomas and Elijah are determined to make the speech team pay and I was really invested in Thomas’ revenge against Andrew and Lakshimi’s rescue mission for her sister. Thei plan was brilliant and so hilarious!
Reading War and speech was captivating and really funny and I loved how the author explored many important issues in this book, from the homophobia and bullying, to the winner-takes-all toxic ideology, to the stress and pressure the whole speach team experienced because of the coach’s bullying.
It explores, also, the socioecomic differences, that Sydney perceives from when she lived a wealthy life to be forced to live into a dingy apartment, struggling to pay rent and, also, the gaps she feels at school, between her and her classmates with their cars and houses and clothes and the opportunities that being more rich would and could mean for her future.
Overall War and speech is a very good story, with interesting characters and important themes explored, really well written. I recommend it to everyone who is looking for a laugh, while learning important things about friendship, self-confidence and relationships.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Don Zolidis grew up in Wisconsin, went to college in Minnesota, and is mostly known for being a really funny playwright. For the past five years, he’s been the most-produced playwright in American schools. His more than one hundred published plays have been performed tens of thousands of times, and have appeared in sixty-four different countries. He currently splits his time between New York and Texas, and has two adorable boys who will someday read this book and have a lot of questions. He aspires to owning a dog. His first novel was The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig.
Thomas leaned on the table and stared at me.
“You seem like a nice person,” he said. “Why would you want to do that?”
“Well, I had a peer counseling session with Logan, and he said I wasn’t hot enough for Speech and Debate, so—”
Lakshmi interrupted me. “Are you fucking kidding?!”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You’re so hot. I would totally do you.”
“Thanks. That means a lot.”
She laughed and raised her Chardonnay tipsily.
“I basically said I was the LeBron James of speech at my last school and that I was joining the team just to piss him off. I’m not gonna do it, guys. It was a joke. I have no idea what speech even is.”
Elijah nodded. “Logan sucks. They all suck. And it’s like—I was on the team, all right, the whole culture is toxic. And Coach Sparks is the worst; he’s like the boss demon in charge of it. He’s practically satanic.”
“Don’t get me started on him,” I said.
“You know him?”
Do I tell them? “I’m aware of his work. I’ve had encounters with him before.”
“Yeah, well, he’s the reason I quit. And he’s the reason I can’t . . .” He trailed off, biting his lip. “He ruins people, all right? I had a scholarship lined up with the U of M for next year—he called them up and they canceled it. He blackballed me.”
“He can do that?” I said.
“He runs the school. He’s more powerful than the principal. And if you cross him . . .”
Lakshmi set her glass down. “My little sister, Rani, is on the team.”
“She’s JV this year, but she’s competitive, so she’s gonna be varsity eventually. And then she’s gonna like . . . turn into one of those sons-of-bitches.”
“The varsity squad,” said Elijah, “is the worst. They’re like seven Voldemorts.”
Thomas objected. “You can’t have seven Voldemorts. That doesn’t make any sense. They’re Death Eaters, at most.”
“They are fucking Voldemorts.”
“The entire term ‘Voldemorts’ is nonsense.”
“What about Andrew?”
“Okay, he’s a Voldemort, and everyone else is a Death Eater.”
“Fine, they’re supervillains, then. Like the Legion of Doom or the Sinister Seven.”
“The Sinister Seven isn’t a thing,” added Thomas.
Lakshmi slammed her fist on the table. “Can you two shut up and stop nerding out for a second? I don’t give a shit who they are, someone needs to take them out.”
Everyone was quiet for a moment.
“Like murder?” asked Elijah, hesitatingly.
“’Cause Sydney’s dad probably knows a guy.”
“My dad’s in prison for tax evasion, he definitely does not know a guy.”
Lakshmi sighed. “No, I mean just—get him fired, destroy their grip on the school . . . something like that.”
“Man,” said Elijah. “I would pay good money to some other speech team to take them down. Just destroy them in open combat. Cheat if they have to. The whole varsity squad and Sparks.”
Silence descended on the table.
I cocked an eyebrow.
One person can ruin a whole team.
“No one can beat them from the outside,” I said. “But what if I could beat them from the inside?”
Lakshmi looked at me. “What are you talking about?”
“There’s no way,” said Elijah. “They’re better than you. Plus, they all do different events. How could you beat all of them?”
“No no no,” said Thomas. “I get it. You don’t have to beat all of them. You could just be the bad apple that spoils the bunch. They wouldn’t even know it was coming from you—the evil is inside the house.”
Tabb arrived at the table. “What’s up, peeps?” he said, and nodded his head ever so slightly. “Just wanted to let you know that I can give you the check at any time, and there’s no rush, but if you guys are done then—”
“We’re not done,” said Lakshmi. “I’m gonna get a bottle of wine.”
Tabb shook his head. “Look, guys, I know you think that you’re cool as hell or whatever—”
Lakshmi narrowed her eyes. “Tabb, I like you. But what if I told you that I was really seventeen and you had mistakenly served me alcohol because you couldn’t tell the difference between two Indian people? And furthermore, what if I went to your manager and said that you had served someone who was underage, even though you’ve been trained explicitly not to do that? How do you think that would reflect on you?”
Tabb’s mouth disappeared into a tiny slit. “What are your demands?” he said.
“First, I’m gonna need you to clear these plates. Then, we need a fresh paper tablecloth and some sharpened crayons. Finally, a dessert menu for everyone and a bottle of your house white.”
He locked eyes with her for a moment. “Very well, Najima.
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