Snap Decision by Nathan Whitaker has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Eighth-grader Chase Clark lives with his mom and sister, Hannah, in north Florida. Chase loves football and plays quarterback on the junior varsity team. He hopes that, like his best friend, Tripp, he will be called up to the varsity team. Throughout the season, Coach Skalaski eases Chase into practices with the varsity players. Chase spends most of his time on the sidelines, but he’s exited just to be part of the team. He’s also thankful to spend time with star varsity quarterback James Brown (or JB). JB not only shares his football experience but also his faith with Chase.
From the sidelines during a game, Chase sees Tripp take a brutal hit from an opposing player. Tripp temporarily loses consciousness and wakes up confused. Chase is the only one who sees the whole incident. Both boys know about Coach Skalaski’s strong stance on head injuries. If anyone gets a concussion, he may be out of the game for weeks. When the team medic arrives, Tripp insists he is fine. Then the medic questions Chase about what he saw. Chase knows he has to make a snap decision: Should he lie so that Tripp can continue to play football this year, or should he tell the truth? Telling the truth about Tripp’s concussion will mean his friend will get the proper treatment. It may also mean Tripp will be angry with Chase for getting him benched.
Chase tells the truth, admitting Tripp suffered a concussion. In the weeks that follow, Tripp struggles to exercise his brain back to a normal state. He refuses to see or talk to Chase, feeling his friend betrayed him. Chase gets more playing time and continues to enjoy the varsity team. But everything is a little less exciting when he can’t share it with Tripp.
Chase spends some time with JB, who offers him football advice and spiritual insight. Chase has often gone to church but has never seen someone striving to live out his faith in all things like JB. Chase starts praying about his strained friendship with Tripp, and he begins a habit of reciting Philippians 4:13 to calm himself down on the field.
As Chase focuses on football, his grades begin to slip. One day, he and Tripp and their parents are called into the school office, and the boys are accused of cheating. While Chase honestly admits he has no idea how their test papers look so alike, Tripp says he and Chase planned the whole thing. Chase feels utterly betrayed. Both boys are suspended from the football team.
Just before the state championship game, Tripp admits that he cheated off of Chase’s paper. He say he knew with all of the headaches and problems he’d been having that there was no way he’d get the answers right on his own. He apologizes and says how much he regrets lying. Chase is reinstated to the team and helps win the championship game. Tripp comes down from the stands to congratulate Chase. Tripp happily reminds Chase that basketball season is coming up, and surely nothing bad can happen in basketball.
The final pages of the book include discussion questions, a glossary of football terms and in-depth information on understanding concussions.
Chase’s family goes to church. Chase thanks God for not letting him be embarrassed by his changing voice. When Chase sees a documentary on concussions, he believes it’s a sign from God telling him he did the right thing by reporting Tripp’s concussion. Feeling frustrated about various situations, Chase notes that it is slow going, getting prayers answered. When he can’t get Tripp to talk to him, he tells God, “He’s all yours!” JB and his family members are strong Christians, and JB is frequently quoting appropriate Scripture and sharing wise sayings to encourage others.
JB prays with Chase before a game, asking God to calm Chase and for Tripp’s health to improve. JB tells Chase he wants to play football in a manner worthy of the Gospel. He explains that means he must follow the rules and not do anything inappropriate or disrespectful. He says that, like Olympian Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire, he feels joy when he glorifies God in his sport. JB has a chance to break Tim Tebow’s touchdown pass record in a game, but he asks the coach to let the second string quarterback have the playing time so the other boy can improve. JB’s sister, also on the football team, recites Scripture as she prepares to kick.
Chase eventually follows her lead and meditates on Scripture while playing. The varsity coach tells the team that God has put him there to prepare them, his team members, for life, not just to teach them football. A visiting athlete says the secret to success is discovering who God made you to be. Several Christian athletes, singers and coaches, including real celebrities, such as soccer player Mo Isom, are mentioned or appear in the story.
Chase’s mom went back to practicing law after Chase’s dad left them. She’s an attentive mom, concerned with Chase’s grades and school activities. On rare occasions when Chase’s dad calls, it’s because he wants something. Tripp’s dad is like a father to Chase, encouraging him in his activities and in life. JB helps Chase improve as a football player. He also shares encouraging words of wisdom, including Scripture. Coach Skalaski respectfully imparts his insights on sports and life to his players. He suspends some of the players when they break school rules, even though it hurts his team’s chances of winning.
Sister Hazel is mentioned as a Christian band. This band isn’t Christian per se, but it is named after a nun who ran a food pantry, and some, if not all of its members are Christians.
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