Daniel True is better known by the nickname 'Mitch' - short for the Michelin Man. Mitch has spent years covering current events for his high school paper, but in his senior year the new editor puts him on sports. Paired up with Kimi, a photographer that Mitch kind of has a crush on, he's expecting it to be a boring year: basic sports puff pieces, lots of press given to the staring player, nothing too exciting. But when he sees Angel, a new kid at school, showing off some skills, he wonders why the coach doesn't start this potential star. Digging deeper, he can't find any information on Angel - it's like he never existed before Mitch met him. The coach won't let Mitch interview Angel, the city newspaper won't run anything about him, and Angel himself wants Mitch to get lost. Mitch is sure that he's sitting on top of a big story, a story that could get his name out there, so he sets out to get to the bottom of it - even if it means getting in over his head.
Payback Time is a gripping mystery/thriller/sports novel that has enough in it to satisfy fans of any elements. I barely knew any of the football talk, but it didn't matter, because it was both about football and not about football. Mitch was a compelling protagonist. I wanted him to succeed, at his weight-loss and his story, because there was a quality about him that made me root for him. Payback Time reminded me of Gentlemen, where a preposterous idea seems to become a bit more probable, and then it's seen as a reality, in this case because Mitch really wants to believe that he can be an investigative journalist and he can uncover a big story. He grows over the course of the novel and is a different person by the end, but the arc is believable and nicely grounded.
See more about the book at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Find it at IndieBound.
Read it with:
Gentlemen by Michael Northrop
Gym Candy by Carl Deuker
Love, Football, and Other Contact Sports by Alden R. Carter