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Exposure

Review

Exposure

Award-winning author Mal Peet has written three books about Paul Faustino, a soccer reporter for the newspaper La Nacion. His previous titles, KEEPER and THE PENALTY, utilized a blend of sports realism and magical elements to create a new kind of soccer novel. In EXPOSURE, Peet takes a somewhat different approach, continuing to explore the cultural undercurrents of the game while incorporating classical elements in this loose retelling of the Shakespearian tragedy OTHELLO.

In the southern regions of an unnamed South American country, the whole area is abuzz with news that the local professional soccer franchise, Rialto, has just signed the continent’s most talented and valuable player: Otello. Otello, whose signing has been coordinated by his crafty agent, Diego Mendosa, and by the powerful politician Nestor Brabanta has been warned that he will likely face racism and resentment on the team and in the South in general. But the prospects of fame --- and the size of his contract --- sway the talented black man’s decision.

Soon, Otello discovers another reason to celebrate his good fortune: Desmerelda, Brabanta’s beautiful daughter and a popular singer/celebrity. Otello falls for Desmerelda immediately, and within weeks of meeting each other, the two elope. It turns out that the white Brabanta’s gregariousness toward his star player might not persist when that player becomes his son-in-law. Meanwhile, the media sensationalizes Otello and Desmerelda’s relationship (think Posh and Becks), not least because of the difference in their skin colors.

But distrust and betrayal lurk not only in the tabloids but also closer to home. When a young, beautiful street kid named Bianca --- who just happens to idolize Desmerelda --- shows up murdered, suspicion is cast on Otello, threatening to bring down his marriage and the Rialto team.

Mal Peet’s award-winning novels (EXPOSURE was the recipient of the 2009 Guardian Prize for children’s fiction, and his earlier book TAMAR won the Carnegie Medal) are the kind of young adult fiction that will appeal equally to teenaged and adult readers. EXPOSURE fearlessly takes on real issues --- race, fame and privacy --- that will resonate with people of all ages. Most notable is that its characters (with the exception of the three street kids who inhabit one sub-plot) are all adults, a risky move for a young adult novelist but one that pays off in a sophisticated and mature approach to themes.

With its separation into acts, its list of dramatis personae and its dialogue that is sometimes set like lines from a play, EXPOSURE is clearly an homage to OTHELLO. Character names and plot points will be familiar to those who have read the original; enjoyment and appreciation of the novel, however, is not diminished for those unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s play. EXPOSURE works for readers of many ages and on different levels; this sprawling, deeply engaging exploration of race, intrigue and betrayal transcends the label “sports novel” as well as its roots in Shakespearian tragedy.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 8, 2011

Exposure
by Mal Peet

  • Publication Date: November 8, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 0763687456
  • ISBN-13: 9780763687458