BY ASHAD MUKADAM
Football of the North American variety fits nicely into coming-of-age stories, due largely to the camaraderie and structured teamwork, but also due partly to the fact that some kids actually play football in high school, so these stories have an immediately identifiable setting. Kicking From Beyond the 40 tells the story of a boy named Blue, who has just entered the 10th grade. Blue wants to try out for the football team but his friends try to talk him out of playing. “Nuts to them,” he says, he does it and he’s great! From there, the novel delves into an earnest examination of how newfound popularity can affect young people.
The message of this book applies to people of all ages but the novel is especially geared towards a younger crowd. Even the narrator refers to Blue’s mom as “Mrs. Biston,” betraying a pervasively teenage mindset that should make the novel more palatable to high school crowds. Mukadam’s narrator never talks down to the reader, choosing instead to simply report on events and instruct through the characters’ example, like an omniscient teenage video camera. Given how much extra attention anti-bullying campaigns have received in the last few years, Kicking From Beyond the 40 could be a good choice for a junior high curriculum or a summer reading list because it deals clearly and directly with issues of peer pressure, a desire for popularity and the dangers of self-deception.
Mukadam’s straightforward writing style makes the novel easy to digest and it is hard to miss the influence that his Communications degree has had on his artistic outlets. His experience with CJSW and The Gauntlet is also easy to spot in the way his narrator frames the storyline, drawing a detailed present-tense portrait of each event. Even if you’ve never related much to the sports crowd, Mukadam’s sympathetic treatment of high school anxieties should strike a chord with most readers. It’s very exciting to see another Calgarian fiction writer emerge with such tremendous potential.
Kicking From Beyond the 40 is Ashad Mukadam’s first novel and can be ordered online from lulu.com
Review by John JuliusAB, Alberta