London, Puffin, 2014, 224p
It is a rare thing for me to enjoy a football orientated book, but there is so much more to Extra Time than sport.
Matt and Bridie Sutherland are very close. Matt is a skilled soccer player, and Bridie acts as his manager - and she does a brilliant job! When Matt is spotted by an English club and given the chance of training with their academy, the siblings leave their parents behind and travel to London with their uncle for the opportunity of a lifetime. But at premiership level, football isn't as friendly as it is when played on the field by their house in Australia.
Bridie is a wonderful story-teller - very observant and intuitive, able to read exactly what her brother is thinking and to articulate his feelings to the reader. She has a huge heart, and it breaks when she sees Matt changing under the pressures of the academy training routines. In the practice sessions, the young players are expected to demonstrate their best skills, even if it involves hurting others on the pitch. Friendship with team mates seems impossible, but Bridie and her uncle are determined to rectify this.
I adore the relationship between Matt and Bridie in this novel - in fact, I am a little jealous - they are loving and honest through and through, and not in an annoying way! For Bridie, family and friends come first, and she is always seeking ways to make people happy, even if it proves to infuriate the mean-faced academy coaches.
In Extra Time, football is just a means through which Morris Gleitzman can demonstrate the importance of family and friendship. The sport element will attract many boys or reluctant readers, whilst the beautiful protagonist will appeal to young girls. At the end of the novel, you feel a better person for reading it, rediscovering the value of love.