Running With Lions by Julian Winters
Publisher: Duet Books (Interlude Press)
Release Date: June 7, 2018
Summary: Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
*Bought an early copy from Yallwest*
My Rating:★★★★☆ ½
My Thoughts: Running With Lions is a fantastic YA Contemporary! With a dynamic cast of characters and page-turning plot, this novel follows senior Sebastian Hughes, goalie for Bloomington High’s soccer team! This novel follows him and his teams summer at Camp Haven to train for their upcoming fall game! Winters explores the complexities of love, friendship, and finding oneself in this unforgettable YA Debut!
Running With Lions was a book I had been looking forward to for a while! From the amazing cover + summary, and focus on soccer!
What I love about this book is that it explores sexuality in such an open way.
“No exclusions around here…Be who you are! Be proud! Treat each other like family!”
Seeing the team + coaches being supportive of each other and just having that strong friendship between Sebastian, Mason, Willie, the other team members, and Grey, the coach’s daughter, was just amazing to read!!
Sebastian is ready for summer! Spending it with his teammates at Camp Haven to train for one last season of soccer together, he’s ready!
Though things get a bit complicated when Sebastian notices his childhood friend Emir Shah is also on the team this season. Emir keeps to himself and pretty much avoids the team when he can (due to his shyness).
Though Sebastian is aware that their friendship during childhood is now over, he tries to get through to him and make him feel more at home with the team.
From a rocky start to early morning runs and training sessions to improve on his soccer skills, Sebastian finds himself trying to connect with his old friend again. This soon leads to something more!
Seeing their dynamic develop as they learn more as to why they grew apart was such a deeply explored aspect to their relationship and it was great seeing how they were able to look past it, accept, and start again!
Emir was such a great character! Through the teams eyes he seems like someone who just doesn’t care, but that is not the case! We see how lonely Emir has felt since his sudden move to the UK caused his friendship with Sebastian to crumble.
However, we see that Sebastian’s courage to make him feel part of the team regardless of their past, really allows Emir to see the team as family!
Told through a 3rd person POV, it allows you to get an overall + in-depth look at the characters, plot and builds the setting/summer atmosphere, which comes to life on the page!
The characters all are written and explored with such depth that they also come to life from their first introductions!
Each and every character is written in such a way where you know so much about them from such few words and you really find yourself connecting with each of them!
We also see there’s so much more to these characters than when we are first introduced to them! Over the course of this novel, we see how their friendships/relationships change and grow as the summer at camp progresses!
There’s just so much development to the Bloomington High team and each character was given a great amount of page time, so were able to see the many different sides to these teammates!
I also really loved Grey Patrick (Coach Patrick’s daughter, who tags along at Camp Haven)! She was just such a great character and I loved her interactions/moments with the guys, like Sebastian & Mason!
She’s fierce and confident and overall she was such an amazing character! I also loved Willie, he was also one of my favorites!
Over the course of the novel Grey and Willie go through their own journeys, which are really given enough page time as we see them develop over the course of the story!
While its mentioned he has a knee injury in the beginning, we see how Willie’s soccer training develops and changes, as does the relationships + dynamics that grow among his friends/teammates throughout the book.
Both Grey & Willie’s journeys were given such interesting development and I loved following each of them throughout the book! Their personalities shined with each page!
There’s also such a diverse cast of characters, which was great to see!! Sebastian who identifies as bisexual, Emir who is pakistani-muslim + gay, Willie is gay, Hunter is black, & Gio is stated to be hispanic.
Winters also explores sexuality in such an open and honest way thorough out the entire novel! The team is very accepting and having that is so important to Sebastian as we see throughout Running With Lions.
Sebastian was such a complex main character! What I loved exploring through his POV (which I don’t see much of in YA), is life after high school and being unsure of what that future holds.
Winters explores this element so well throughout the entire book that it gradually becomes an even more recurring thought from Sebastian as he gets closer to the start of his Senior year!
Additionally, Winters explores so well the side of Sebastian who questions who exactly he is without soccer as the thoughts of college, the future, and the future of friends comes into play.
*I also recommend checking out Kris Hui Lee’s Out Of Left Field if your looking for another sports (baseball) YA Contemporary that discusses future after high school in a unique way *
Running With Lions is fantastic Coming-Of-Age YA Contemporary that explores sexuality in an open and honest way! With a supportive cast of diverse characters, great writing, and themes of friendship throughout, this is a great YA Contemporary to check out!