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At Eaganville School for the Arts, Speech and Debate is king. The varsity members of the squad are treated like heroes, and the coach, the irascible Joey Sparks, might as well be a god. But when new girl Sydney Williams, a perennial loser, joins the team, she has only one goal in mind: To infiltrate the team in an elaborate conspiracy and tear them apart from the inside ou At Eaganville School for the Arts, Speech and Debate is king. The varsity members of the squad are treated like heroes, and the coach, the irascible Joey Sparks, might as well be a god. But when new girl Sydney Williams, a perennial loser, joins the team, she has only one goal in mind: To infiltrate the team in an elaborate conspiracy and tear them apart from the inside out.


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At Eaganville School for the Arts, Speech and Debate is king. The varsity members of the squad are treated like heroes, and the coach, the irascible Joey Sparks, might as well be a god. But when new girl Sydney Williams, a perennial loser, joins the team, she has only one goal in mind: To infiltrate the team in an elaborate conspiracy and tear them apart from the inside ou At Eaganville School for the Arts, Speech and Debate is king. The varsity members of the squad are treated like heroes, and the coach, the irascible Joey Sparks, might as well be a god. But when new girl Sydney Williams, a perennial loser, joins the team, she has only one goal in mind: To infiltrate the team in an elaborate conspiracy and tear them apart from the inside out.

30 review for War and Speech

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    One of my favorite YAs in recent years is the wildly underrated The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig. It’s funny, with spot-on teen dialog. This is Zolidis’s follow up to that book and I’m thrilled it has equally enjoyable dialog and wit to it, while also offering some real depth. Zolidis is a playright and that is especially evident in the dialog he writes. Sydney’s father is in jail for a white collar crime, and she flunked out of her last high school. She’s starting fresh at a performing arts One of my favorite YAs in recent years is the wildly underrated The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig. It’s funny, with spot-on teen dialog. This is Zolidis’s follow up to that book and I’m thrilled it has equally enjoyable dialog and wit to it, while also offering some real depth. Zolidis is a playright and that is especially evident in the dialog he writes. Sydney’s father is in jail for a white collar crime, and she flunked out of her last high school. She’s starting fresh at a performing arts school not because she’s got the talent in her but because she resides within the school’s residential boundaries and can. She and her mom are living together in a tiny apartment and money is supremely tight. The girl’s got a mega chip on her shoulder going into school but it only grows bigger when she learns that her school is famous for its speech and debate team. The kids on the team are, in her perception, utter jerks and with her new-found friends, Syd devises a plan to take down the speech team and in particular, ensure the top stars of the team have their lights dimmed. Why do they get to be special? Reign supreme in school? And when she shows up for her first practice, imagine her surprise when the teacher happens to be the man who ran informational programs about how to make money and scam people that got her father wrapped up in tax issues in the first place. Sydney begins by doing a speech she finds online about becoming a heroin addict. She does really well, too -- winning her first competition and finding herself earning a surprise elite status in the eyes of her coach. She begins to better understand the team and the stars of it, almost seeing them as humans who don’t deserve to be taken down… Until she changes her speech, getting raw and honest about her father being incarcerated and how much that’s impacted her. Her mom has a new boyfriend and doesn’t want to visit her father on Saturdays like she does, and she’s alone to see her dad’s humanity and the way the system convinced him that having all the best in life was the purpose of life all together. He broke the law and is serving time for it, but he was caught up in a system that rewards others for the very same thing. Like her speech coach, who believes her speech about her dad needs more depth, despite it being popular with audiences. “Just make up stuff,” he encourages her. And it’s here -- this moment of realizing he, along with his elite speech team members, Sydney discovers what it is she’s truly passionate about: speaking her truth and living fully into it, rather than believing she needs to be rich, polished, and a liar to get ahead. This book is very funny, while also being a smart look at social class. Syd and her family experienced wealth for a while during the time her father was evading tax laws, but then she and her mother became very poor, very quickly. Her mom works at the Mall of America, and Sydney, who hates the new man in her mom’s life, decides to get a part time job at the American Cookie shop at the mall too, thinking it might help them afford their apartment (spoiler -- it won’t and doesn’t, but some of the cookie store moments are among the best in the book, as she chooses to write super snarky messages on the cookies and they sell like mad). At times, Sydney is downright mean, and some of the choices she makes to take down the fellow speech team members aren’t especially kind or justified. BUT she recognizes that along the way, and she realizes who the real enemy is -- they’re collateral damage along the way to making her point about inequality and unfair preferential treatment. Smart dialog, which feels really teen and not adult-sounding-teen, with a teen who is sarcastic and snarky and also deeply hurting. She’s not especially likeable but that’s what makes her compelling: her rough edges don’t get softened, but rather, readers better see why she’s got those sharp parts. The speech and debate team and competitions being huge parts of the book were fun, even for someone who was never involved in either. Are they accurate? Who knows. What’s refreshing is it’s not a sports team being singled out for being treated as special at school but instead, a group that often doesn’t get that kind of golden treatment. For readers who want humor, as well as a challenging main character. I especially found how she talked about Luke, her mom’s boyfriend, funny -- and even though he’s pitted as an enemy in her mind, we discover he’s much deeper than she gives him credit for, and it explains why he behaves the way he does.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jypsy

    I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of FFBC. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own. War and Speech By: Don Zolidis REVIEW ☆☆☆☆ War And Speech is a unique story about Sydney, daughter of a jailed white collar criminal, as she navigates a new kind of life. Because of her father's crimes, Sydney and her mom toppled from rich to very poor in an instant. Sydney has only known her former lifestyle, so this change is a dramatic traumatizing experience. Now I received a complimentary copy of this book courtesy of FFBC. I voluntarily reviewed this book. All opinions expressed are my own. War and Speech By: Don Zolidis REVIEW ☆☆☆☆ War And Speech is a unique story about Sydney, daughter of a jailed white collar criminal, as she navigates a new kind of life. Because of her father's crimes, Sydney and her mom toppled from rich to very poor in an instant. Sydney has only known her former lifestyle, so this change is a dramatic traumatizing experience. Now, Sydney and her mom live in a cruddy little apartment and work at the mall. Can you imagine being a teen girl in this situation? Sydney also attends a new school, but this one is a bit different. The debate team rule the school. My high school had no debate team, so I can't speak to that aspect, other than the common assumption that the debate team are nerds. Currently, Sydney isn't loving life, and suffice it to say, she's not a fan of the team. She and a few friends conspire for Sydney to infiltrate the team, and destroy them. Understand, though, that Sydney is not a nice girl. She is genuinely mean and negative, and the other characters are also mean. Sydney is not a likeable person, but that's okay with her. As her diabolical plan unfolds, it both works and doesn't work. When Sydney begins to see the debate team as people instead of targets, her plan becomes increasingly difficult. How do you destroy these people now? Ultimately, Sydney transitions from her old life to this new reality. She starts to understand how and why her father did what he did. Sydney sees the falseness in the world and the advantages some people have over others. This story shines a bit of light on the class system that does exist in America, even though people try to pretend otherwise. And it matters. Having wealth brings you more wealth. Being poor means that you stay poor because the advantages you need to gain wealth and social standing are not available to you, rather they are only available to the already wealthy. In this destitute life, Sydney realizes the only truth she has is her own, and she should speak it, regardless of social class. I think this story is best for older young adult readers because of situations and the prevailing meanness through the entire thing. It's a heavier read than I expected, but it addresses important issues with a sharp juvenile inflicted narrative. By that, I mean that it feels teen, as it should. If this style appeals to you, then read War and Speech!

  3. 4 out of 5

    PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps

    1.5 STARS I don’t like the trope MC is in pain/traumatized so she acts like a mean jerk until people break through her shell. Sydney is pretty darn awful. Her darts are thrown in the form of sarcasm and what she considers to be humor. I give Don Zolodis credit for writing a few funny lines, but over all found Sydney to be obnoxious and unlike any real teenager. The premise of WAR AND SPEECH is a group of misfits, led by new student Sydney, set to take down the entitled debate team, because as nati 1.5 STARS I don’t like the trope MC is in pain/traumatized so she acts like a mean jerk until people break through her shell. Sydney is pretty darn awful. Her darts are thrown in the form of sarcasm and what she considers to be humor. I give Don Zolodis credit for writing a few funny lines, but over all found Sydney to be obnoxious and unlike any real teenager. The premise of WAR AND SPEECH is a group of misfits, led by new student Sydney, set to take down the entitled debate team, because as national champions they rule the school the way athletes do in other high schools. The debate coach is a man from Sydney’s past who she blames as responsible for her father’s imprisonment for a Ponzi scheme. Revenge of the Nerds, this is not. The diverse group decides to turn team members against each other. Sydney starts by telling a student of color his white debate partner said racist comments, which was untrue. I couldn’t believe the audacity of a Caucasian writer to use fake racism as a plot point. Racism isn’t just a bad thing, it’s painful centuries of hurt, lives lost and being treated as less than. It’s black men who fear they’ll be shot down while jogging or shot by police for looking suspicious in their own back yard. Zolodis to using this for such a petty plot point felt the same as writers who use rape to give characters an interesting back story then never mention it again. Stay in your lane if you aren’t going to give sensitive topics the respect they deserve. If you’re in the majority, vet your brilliant idea with people in the minority. The fake racist allegation soured me to the story, though I did finish reading. I doubt I’ll read Zolodis again. Some of the writing was snappy and witty and Sydney did experience some growth, but not enough to bump to 2 stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Samantha (WLABB)

    Rating: 4.5 stars When Sydney's dad was sent to prison, she became someone everyone avoided. After relocating from their McMansion to a less than desirable apartment, she found herself with the possibility of escaping her past failures, and perhaps, finally being a winner at something. I know many people were interested in this book, because it held the promise of featuring speech and debate, but I honestly wanted to read it, because Zolidis wrote it. Last year, I read his YA debut, The Seven Torm Rating: 4.5 stars When Sydney's dad was sent to prison, she became someone everyone avoided. After relocating from their McMansion to a less than desirable apartment, she found herself with the possibility of escaping her past failures, and perhaps, finally being a winner at something. I know many people were interested in this book, because it held the promise of featuring speech and debate, but I honestly wanted to read it, because Zolidis wrote it. Last year, I read his YA debut, The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, and it was hilarious. I was hoping for more of that, and I definitely did get that, as the book often had me releasing peals of laughter. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this book so much was Sydney. She was snarky and sarcastic, and I just loved her sense of humor. From her observations of the world around her to her irreverent cookie cake messages, the girl kept me in stitches. She also managed to find a quirky bunch of friends, who were perfect foils for her. All of them brought their A-game when bantering, and there were times I thought I could listen to them volley all day. One of the big plots of the book was the conspiracy to take down the all powerful Speech and Debate team. That's right. Sydney transferred to a school, where the BMOCs were orators and debaters. That whole idea made me love the school, until I met the people on the debate team. It was quite a toxic environment. The shocking part was how much Syd grew to enjoy S&D. The bad part was her inner battle to stick with the plan or fully adopt the team and its culture. Regardless, it was amazing to see that spark lit in her, see her believe in herself, and watch her confidence grow. Sydney was also struggling with her anger towards her parents for all the fallout due to her father's crimes, but at the same time, still loving them. She felt betrayed by her parents. Her father lied, her mother was moving on, and Sydney was still trying to work her way through all these changes. Regardless, they were her parents, and she created so many beautiful memories with them, which could not be erased. This book was just a treat to read. I laughed and laughed, while also enjoying the way Zolidis explored many different themes. It was packed with fully fleshed out characters, who were complex and interesting, and I found myself completely carried away in all the drama Eaganville. *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. BLOG | INSTAGRAM |TWITTER | BLOGLOVIN | FRIEND ME ON GOODREADS

  5. 5 out of 5

    Fazila

    Check out the full review on my website. CLICK HERE FOLLOW ME ON : TWITTER INSTAGRAM REVIEW : DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley, Disney-Hyperion, and FFBC tours for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily. War and Speech is a fantastic read and I enjoyed every second of it. I found the concept to be new and fresh. I loved the set up for the story and how the speech and debate program was used in delivering relevant messages as well. I loved how the whole plot hin Check out the full review on my website. CLICK HERE FOLLOW ME ON : TWITTER INSTAGRAM REVIEW : DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Netgalley, Disney-Hyperion, and FFBC tours for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily. War and Speech is a fantastic read and I enjoyed every second of it. I found the concept to be new and fresh. I loved the set up for the story and how the speech and debate program was used in delivering relevant messages as well. I loved how the whole plot hinges on the taking down of the prestigious speech and debate team. The school set up with the hierarchy of students sets the tone for the story from the beginning of the book. Sydney was a fun character with real problems and family issues that made her who she is. Her defense mechanism of resorting to humor as a shield for uncomfortable situations and her quick wit are some of her strengths that make her a great protagonist in this story. The group of misfits and how they form a friendship is pretty interesting to read about. The elite nature of the team and the selection process for the team were fun to read about. I have no idea how the speech and debate program works. So the whole set up was new for me and I was engaged from the get-go. I loved the competitive nature, the petty comments, and the exclusivity of the group that brought on the drama. The book and the characters were funny, the humor elements kept me entertained thoroughly. The drama and the over-the-top meanness of the speech team all added to the story perfectly. I gave the book 4 stars and definitely recommend checking it out. If you love a troubled teen, with snarky humor who is witty you will love this book. It was clever, funny, and entertaining to read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Don Zolidis

    Hey it's my second book! I'll post a cover soon, but I can't wait for you to read this. This is a super-fun caper-style novel, with lots of humor and lots of nods to the speech community.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lu

    I received this book from NetGalley and Little, Brown books for young readers in exchange of an honest review. Thank you so much for this opportunity! 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 ever I received this book from NetGalley and Little, Brown books for young readers in exchange of an honest review. Thank you so much for this opportunity! 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, 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, those 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 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 things.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karsen Gromm

    As a former speech teamer and coach, I was really excited to read this, but it was disappointing to say the least. The characters felt incredibly one-dimensional, the themes weren't explored with the depth and nuance they deserved, and there was a constant slew of inaccuracies about speech team. Sydney's OO, performed in various different forms at state and nationals, doesn't even seem to qualify as an OO. It's more of an autobiographical DI. I could say more, but I won't go on about all the issu As a former speech teamer and coach, I was really excited to read this, but it was disappointing to say the least. The characters felt incredibly one-dimensional, the themes weren't explored with the depth and nuance they deserved, and there was a constant slew of inaccuracies about speech team. Sydney's OO, performed in various different forms at state and nationals, doesn't even seem to qualify as an OO. It's more of an autobiographical DI. I could say more, but I won't go on about all the issues I had with it. Sometimes the book was funny and entertaining, but overall it just felt shallow, and I couldn't get over the impossibility of the premise.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dini Kamayana

    Thanks to Netgalley and publisher for providing the e-ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Also, special thanks to the FFBC for including me as part of the blog tour for this book. You can find my review and favourite quotes on my blog, link in bio! War and Speech was such a treat to read! Amidst all the craziness going on right now, this humorous, mostly-lighthearted, surprisingly emotional YA contemporary was exactly what I needed in my life! The book had me in constant laughing f Thanks to Netgalley and publisher for providing the e-ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Also, special thanks to the FFBC for including me as part of the blog tour for this book. You can find my review and favourite quotes on my blog, link in bio! War and Speech was such a treat to read! Amidst all the craziness going on right now, this humorous, mostly-lighthearted, surprisingly emotional YA contemporary was exactly what I needed in my life! The book had me in constant laughing fits but it also had me crying smol silent tears in certain parts too (I'm an emotional creature, alright). I've never been part of a debate team so I can't speak to the accuracy of that part of the story, but I will say that it was very interesting. You hear lots of crazy stories about American school life (books, movies/shows) and the high school portrayed in this book was pretty intense. CW for bullying Sydney is the new kid in Eaganville, an extremely artsy high school, where it's not about the jocks or the cheerleaders, it's the varsity speech team that is the ruling class and they hold power over students and teachers alike. I really loved the characters in this book! I mean, I hated the ones we were meant to hate (and found them horrifyingly entertaining too) but Sydney and her band of merry misfits were such a great group of friends! I loved their support of each other but I do wish that we learned more about them, as this was very focused on Sydney's character arc, and the plot of revenge and the take down of a toxic system. I thought Sydney's character arc was done very well and I loved her as the MC. She has a snarky attitude and she's also a lottle bit angry with the world, but deep down she has a good heart that shines through in little ways. At the start I was worried she would be too too mean and too snarky, but Zolidis balances her character very well, and her growth was very satisfying. I loved watching her confidence grow and see her taking charge of her attitude and channeling that positively. Honestly, I was 100% impressed by their take down plans because there's no way in hell I would've been able to pull off something so incredible in high school; and I'm pretty sure I'm still too much of a hot mess to pull off anything like this now. I hated Coach Sparks with the passion of a thousand fiery ball-burning suns and I hated reading any parts to do with him and his awful bullying because he's literally the worst kind of human being to take advantage and to break kids down like that. It definitely brought a darker tone to the story, but the topics covered in the story were important and did bring more depth. Overall, this was a highly entertaining and fast-paced contemporary that I would definitely recommend if you're looking for something that's a little bit nerdy, a lot funny and that'll leave you feeling good by the time you get to the end. As much as I enjoyed reading this as an adult, I know that I would've loved it much more as a high schooler.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn Speckels (Metaphors and Miscellanea)

    Full review coming soon, but basically, this was a really funny and heartwarming story with a super snarky narrator whose voice is super memorable. My only big objection was...how much the author got wrong about speech? Especially about how rounds work and what OO is? Which is weird, because he writes plays that are basically designed for speech team. I know tons of people who competed with his stuff. To see those details come out wrong was very confusing to me. But hey, if you weren't a speech k Full review coming soon, but basically, this was a really funny and heartwarming story with a super snarky narrator whose voice is super memorable. My only big objection was...how much the author got wrong about speech? Especially about how rounds work and what OO is? Which is weird, because he writes plays that are basically designed for speech team. I know tons of people who competed with his stuff. To see those details come out wrong was very confusing to me. But hey, if you weren't a speech kid, you probably won't mind those inaccuracies and will enjoy it more for that.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Surbhi Sinha

    I have to be honest with you all. I picked this book solely because of it's title, I'm not even kidding when I say that I didn't even read the synopsis when I requested to be a part of this blog tour. "War and Speech" as the title suggests is all about a war waged by some misfit high school going teenagers against the egocentric speech team of their school. Not to mention the fact that I was expecting some amazing speech content to be a part of the story as well and the book DID NOT disappoint. W I have to be honest with you all. I picked this book solely because of it's title, I'm not even kidding when I say that I didn't even read the synopsis when I requested to be a part of this blog tour. "War and Speech" as the title suggests is all about a war waged by some misfit high school going teenagers against the egocentric speech team of their school. Not to mention the fact that I was expecting some amazing speech content to be a part of the story as well and the book DID NOT disappoint. War and Speech is like a fresh breathe of reality amidst the many magical books under the YA genre. It's real, it's ugly and has the perfect pinch of aww moments too. The protagonist - Sydney Williams has to move into a tiny apartment and change schools after her father has been sent to prison for white-collar crime - tax evasion - which isn't even a "cool" thing to go to prison for. She is undoubtedly amazing at being a "loser" and like you can guess she befriends the misfits at her new school. Eagenville has a pretty solid speech & debate team, whose members are pretty much the celebrities there. They're good at what they do, but hell are they mean! These misfits sit together to plan their conspiracy to take down the team that rules the school. The story is one of which that I absolutely loved! From the moments of doubt to the moments of motivation. The moments when one falls but also gets up in the next. One of my most favorite parts of the book was when Sydney makes those super fast selling cookies with the fabulously snarky iced messages on them! I love how Sydney may have initially been portrayed to undermine herself but she's a smart kid with a lot to say and that's all it takes for me to be Team Sydney! She's smart, she's witty, she has a great sense of humor, what else are you all looking for? I really liked how the harsh realities of life has been portrayed throughout the plot line as well. I loved the complexities of all the characters too! Lakshmi the basketball player, Elijah by the description of whom even I was swayed, Thomas and Blaize. I enjoyed reading through most of the speeches in the book too, in fact I had no idea what a big deal the the NFL - Nationals Forensic League was! I highly recommend this book if you're looking for something which hits home, for something which addresses the issues of bullying, homophobia, socio-economic differences and the winning is everything attitude. Apart from how quirky and satirical the entire book is, I especially recommend you to read this book for Chapter Forty-two. Oh! I almost forgot there! The book has the most geeky and obviously the best references ever! I mean every thing from Shakespeare to Harry Potter (duh!) to Lord of the Rings to GAME OF THRONES! And hence I rate this book a 4.5 out of 5 bookmarks! I'd like to thank The FFBC tours, Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book in lieu of an honest review. I'd also like to congratulate the author Don Zolidis for writing such a refreshing book!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I was first introduced to Don’s writing through his debut novel, The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig (read my review here). I was struck by how hilarious he was, while pulling every other emotion out of me at the same time -- not an easy feat! While War and Speech wasn’t quite as bittersweet and emotional as TSTOAAC, the characters were just as funny, and also inspiring and badass. Sydney has had a rough time in the past year: her father was sent to prison for tax evasion and other crimes, and s I was first introduced to Don’s writing through his debut novel, The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig (read my review here). I was struck by how hilarious he was, while pulling every other emotion out of me at the same time -- not an easy feat! While War and Speech wasn’t quite as bittersweet and emotional as TSTOAAC, the characters were just as funny, and also inspiring and badass. Sydney has had a rough time in the past year: her father was sent to prison for tax evasion and other crimes, and she and her mother have been left to pick up the pieces. Having failed all of her classes in the spring of her junior year because of the upheaval, she’s now attending Eaganville School for the Arts and just trying to graduate. Luckily she meets three students on her first day -- Lakshmi, Thomas, and Elijah -- a group of misfits who become her closest friends. While I love all four of the characters, Lakshmi is my favorite, and in some ways she reminds me of myself in high school with all her talk of dismantling the patriarchy :) When Sydney has a run-in with a particularly obnoxious member of the revered Speech and Debate team, she devises a plan to take down the team from within, and hijinks ensue. I absolutely love this book! I was on the debate team in high school, though we definitely were *not* the kids who ruled the school (I’m from the South, so it’s sports down here, ha!). Also, my coach was basically the polar opposite of Coach Sparks (thankfully). Reading about the tournaments brought back so many memories, and I got such nostalgic feelings while reading. But even if you have zero experience with speech and debate, you have to pick this up! You will recognize people you know in these pages, whether they were speech-and-debaters, or football players, or drama folks, or whoever may have ruled your school. And I promise you will find yourself laughing out loud, trying not to wake up the rest of your household, just like I did. Rating: 5 stars - no debate! **Disclosure: I received an early e-copy of this book from the publisher for purposes of this blog tour. This review is voluntary on my part and reflects my honest rating and review of the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jaymie

    [I received an electronic review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.] 4.5 stars. This was fantastic!!! The writing is so sharp and so funny. Early on when the debate team kids hassle others in class, you can HEAR the rhythm of the debate in your head as you read. It was excellent. And I laughed so many times in this. The pop culture references are perfect, and the snark from Sydney's job was outstanding. I have really strong opinions about re [I received an electronic review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.] 4.5 stars. This was fantastic!!! The writing is so sharp and so funny. Early on when the debate team kids hassle others in class, you can HEAR the rhythm of the debate in your head as you read. It was excellent. And I laughed so many times in this. The pop culture references are perfect, and the snark from Sydney's job was outstanding. I have really strong opinions about revenge stories. Many times, the revenge is as bad as the action that prompted it. So I have to really feel the righteous indignation and anger rise up over the inciting incidents to enjoy the story. I felt like the indignation was there for the coach. He was awful. But I didn't feel like the case was strong enough (for me) on the kids on the team. Yes, they were catty and mean. But some of the cruelty happened before Sydney got there. And as she was the only POV character, it was vicarious outrage rather than her being there, with her friends, as they were devastated by these kids. So, I found myself in the end thinking the punishment was harsher than the initial "crimes" for the kids. This was my only "critique" about a book that was otherwise absolutely perfect for me as a reader. (Language, under-age drinking, sexual references, LGBTQ+)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Maddy Pieronek

    I loved this book. Sydney, although brusque and slightly mean at some points in the book, is a fresh and relatable character who speaks her own witty mind. Her best friend, Lakshmi, is a fiercely protective and strong friend as well. Most females in this book have very strong and interesting personalities, which was fantastic. The whole plot really explained Speech and Debate; I never had understood the intricacies and the action involved before. The author shone a lot of light onto a sport that I loved this book. Sydney, although brusque and slightly mean at some points in the book, is a fresh and relatable character who speaks her own witty mind. Her best friend, Lakshmi, is a fiercely protective and strong friend as well. Most females in this book have very strong and interesting personalities, which was fantastic. The whole plot really explained Speech and Debate; I never had understood the intricacies and the action involved before. The author shone a lot of light onto a sport that sometimes goes unnoticed. The coach is verbally abusive towards his players, which was sadly something that happens in real life. However, I love how in the end Sydney takes him down with what he loves most. The ways that Lakshimi, Elijah, Thomas, and Sydney plot to take down the team were well written and entertaining. All in all, this was a refreshing book with strong protagonists, witty writing, and the truth of how far people will go to win.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    I enjoyed this book a lot! I'm a high school speech and debate coach, so I loved the inside humor. I can't wait to add it to my classroom library this fall; my students will love it. I loved the voice of the protagonist. It's easy to visualize her, and I enjoyed watching her develop over the course of the story. I felt the dialogue was spot-on realistic. I hang around high school kids, and it felt natural. Some events were a little over-the-top, but it's fiction, and I easily went along for the r I enjoyed this book a lot! I'm a high school speech and debate coach, so I loved the inside humor. I can't wait to add it to my classroom library this fall; my students will love it. I loved the voice of the protagonist. It's easy to visualize her, and I enjoyed watching her develop over the course of the story. I felt the dialogue was spot-on realistic. I hang around high school kids, and it felt natural. Some events were a little over-the-top, but it's fiction, and I easily went along for the ride. This book also brought me fond memories of a trip to the Mall of America. Fun read!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sam Caton

    Don Zolidis captures and speech/debate world in a way that few can!!! He takes a arts high school in minnesota and makes it your entire world in a just a few pages! Even if you are not from the speech and debate world you will get wrapped up in the drama, politics, and crazy humor of Eaganville! A must read!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Arkans -

    I really loved War and Speech. There were more than a few times where I was sitting it even laughing out loud. As a former debate team member, it was fun to remember my days on stage and behind the podium. But if this is what debate team is like now, it's really changed!! Thank you to NetGalley for my advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Megan Jackson

    Irreverant, snarky, and occasionally a little too clever. Ultimately it's not super memorable for me, but I think that's ok. I'm a grown up. I can see teens still being into this. Sydney moves to a new, hardcore arts high school after her former life collapses and her dad winds up in prison for tax fraud. After failing the first semester of her junior year, Sydney feels like she has nothing to lose, like she doesn't belong, and like she doesn't deserve anything good. She's always had a quick wit Irreverant, snarky, and occasionally a little too clever. Ultimately it's not super memorable for me, but I think that's ok. I'm a grown up. I can see teens still being into this. Sydney moves to a new, hardcore arts high school after her former life collapses and her dad winds up in prison for tax fraud. After failing the first semester of her junior year, Sydney feels like she has nothing to lose, like she doesn't belong, and like she doesn't deserve anything good. She's always had a quick wit and a talent for speaking her mind at inopportune moments, and her boldness gets her into trouble quickly at this new school. After being insulted by multiple members of the uber-elite Speech & Debate team, she plots her revenge with a new group of ragtag friends, à la Mean Girls: she's going to take them down from the inside. The best things about this book were the Speech & Debate parts - I found this weirdly engrossing, even though I know nothing about this world. If you love a fish-out-of-water story or a subculture novel, this is your jam. Sydney's job (no spoilers) also provided me with some laughs. I also liked the romantic b-plot (again, no spoilers), even though I could have used at least one more scene to give me a better sense of their relationship dynamic. Some of the book, particularly the beginning, was choppy and underdeveloped. Sydney's motivation in the first half of the book is strange - why is she so ready to hop into this subterfuge? She had one bad experience with one of the team members. Once we know another character's backstory, the plot has more emotional drive - but that doesn't come out until more than halfway through the book. Give this to the teen who has a powerful voice and is learning to use their powers for good, and to teens who love dark humor. Buy for your library if your teens gobble up school stories, subculture stories, or love to read about Smart Girls Behaving Badly™ Thanks to Hachette/Little, Brown and Edelweiss for the review copy! Things can change between the release of galleys and publication, so take any pre-release reviews with a grain of salt.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hope Hunter

    Sydney's life was pretty great, only she didn't know it at the time. How could she know it if it was the only thing she ever knew? The nice home, the in-ground pool, the vacations, the clothes....she took it for granted until it was gone and she found herself living with her mom in a tiny apartment, in a new school, with her dad in prison. Sydney vows to keep her head down, stay invisible and get through the rest of her senior year before starting her own dead end job since she busted any chance Sydney's life was pretty great, only she didn't know it at the time. How could she know it if it was the only thing she ever knew? The nice home, the in-ground pool, the vacations, the clothes....she took it for granted until it was gone and she found herself living with her mom in a tiny apartment, in a new school, with her dad in prison. Sydney vows to keep her head down, stay invisible and get through the rest of her senior year before starting her own dead end job since she busted any chance of a scholarship with her dismal grades at the end of her junior year. Her best intentions last a hot minute before her mouth begins running faster than her brain and she finds herself defending a fellow classmate to a speech and debate team champ. Sydney quickly finds out that the speech and debate team rule the school and no one- but NO ONE - defies them. Sydney convinces her new friends (including the girl she defended) to help her infiltrate the team and take it down in a spectacular and very public humiliation, exacting revenge on behalf of all the underdogs of the school. For me, the best part of this book was Zolidis' theme that the winners in the American way of life are destined to stay winners and keep the path of winning open for their own children. Winning in America is no longer about working hard, it is about the advantages provided for you. Sydney at one time had it all, but it was taken away from her by a bad decision on the part of her parent, who, was just trying to keep this "American dream" open to his daughter. Although improbable in that it is very unlikely a new girl with no speech and debate team experience could successfully infiltrate a nationally ranked team and compete on their level, this story gives hope in that sometimes not giving up the fight is the best that you can do, and sometimes, pushing back does actually topple the unfair status quo.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Renee Norris

    I loved War and Speech. Zolidis expertly creates unique voices for every character. Sydney's voice was so clear for me as I read and although each character may have seemed like heightened reality- I loved that the best. I teach high school and am raising teenagers and the characters and story were hightened just enough for me to escape reality while still finding so much to be relatable. Without making diversity statements in his writing- there is strong attention paid to honoring diversity. No I loved War and Speech. Zolidis expertly creates unique voices for every character. Sydney's voice was so clear for me as I read and although each character may have seemed like heightened reality- I loved that the best. I teach high school and am raising teenagers and the characters and story were hightened just enough for me to escape reality while still finding so much to be relatable. Without making diversity statements in his writing- there is strong attention paid to honoring diversity. No character felt like a stereotype- I know these kids- but the situation they are in at school and at home and the way they persevere and help each other through moved me all while I was laughing out loud. Each character is fully imagined and relationships are dynamic. Each character gets more than one challenge each and each get resolution- I think that is rare. Even the smallest characters have great behaviors attached to them that you can completely picture them. I was so satisfied with the central character's through line. Her humor and use of witty inner monologue appealed to me greatly. I read this quickly because I just couldn't wait to see what was to happen next. The characters will stay with me a long time and the movie in my mind will likely continue. Great second novel by Don Zolidis. Read this and you must read his first novel: The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig. Don is also an accomplished playwright.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zoey Waddell

    **I received this book for free for an honest review. Honestly, this was so much fun! The only reason I wouldn't purchase it for the library I work at is because speech is totally different in Iowa. However, I related to it quite a bit from knowing how most states and schools view forensics. It was so much fun to read! I didn't relate to the characters as much outside of speech, but everything else was completely accurate. It was so enjoyable to watch the characters grow and learn that their coac **I received this book for free for an honest review. Honestly, this was so much fun! The only reason I wouldn't purchase it for the library I work at is because speech is totally different in Iowa. However, I related to it quite a bit from knowing how most states and schools view forensics. It was so much fun to read! I didn't relate to the characters as much outside of speech, but everything else was completely accurate. It was so enjoyable to watch the characters grow and learn that their coach might have been too much. Sydney, however, was my favorite. Her humor was so quick and so relatable. Many would have fault with the cursing that happens so frequently in the book, but I didn't feel it was there for a shock factor. I ultimately found Sydney's life would be relatable for teenagers and her use of humor as well. I would definitely recommend this book to those who found the forensics/speech world to be truly daunting and slightly terrifying. It really is a great read and I would purchase this for my personal library.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Sydney's life has been turned upside down when her dad gets sent to prison for tax fraud and must start at a new school, Eaganville School of the Arts. Things are different her as the speech and debate team rule the school and athletes are looked down upon. Sydney has a bad run in with some members of the team and their head coach so with her new friends she decides to join the team and destroy it from the inside. I really enjoyed the writing style of this book and thought the dialogue and bante Sydney's life has been turned upside down when her dad gets sent to prison for tax fraud and must start at a new school, Eaganville School of the Arts. Things are different her as the speech and debate team rule the school and athletes are looked down upon. Sydney has a bad run in with some members of the team and their head coach so with her new friends she decides to join the team and destroy it from the inside. I really enjoyed the writing style of this book and thought the dialogue and banter was great. What I had a small problem with was how mean all the characters were, not just the speech team but also Sydney and her friends. I did enjoy how the story progressed and that in the end Sydney had grown and was able to talk to her parents about how she was felling about the imprisonment. The friendships in this book were also a lot of fun to read about. This was a fun read and I loved all the insights into speech competitions. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Thank you Netgalley and Little Brown Books.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Netgalley Can't tell you how much I wanted this to be a good choice for middle school; I was on the speech team in high school and really enjoyed it, but our high schools don't seem to have them. Sadly, language and generally introspective nature of this makes it more high school appropriate. Drat. I'm curious how Extemporaneous speakers do their research now-- their phones? Back in the day, they traveled with file folders worth of articles!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Michele

    If you were or are a speech & debate kid, you should read this. Don captures the culture of it very well AND creates a great cast of characters to surround Sydney. (My kid and I agree that she has actually competed ... in DI ... against a kid who is basically a Hanson clone, who is on a team whose coach is a less-evil Joey Sparks.) My ONE quibble is that I wish we’d known the specifics of why Coach Sparks needed to be humiliated sooner. If you were or are a speech & debate kid, you should read this. Don captures the culture of it very well AND creates a great cast of characters to surround Sydney. (My kid and I agree that she has actually competed ... in DI ... against a kid who is basically a Hanson clone, who is on a team whose coach is a less-evil Joey Sparks.) My ONE quibble is that I wish we’d known the specifics of why Coach Sparks needed to be humiliated sooner.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Linh

    Maybe I’m too old, but I cannot fathom some aspects of this book. I loved the first half. It was funny and smart and delightful. And then I got to about 60% and it started to follow the trope I figured was coming, but was disappointed to read. By 80%, I was really over it. It had such promise, but I didn’t like all the execution.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sunny Hashire

    An amazing cover and even better book! It was comical, original, and lighthearted. I finished in two days and I would definitely recommend it to teens who are looking for a laugh or spunky characters!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    To much swearing. I only read about ten pages before giving up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Noura

    I'm literally only adding this because of the cover.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Pure FUN. Teenage caper with very likable characters.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

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