Jake Cullen is a freshman quarterback playing high school football in the high-pressure land of Friday Night Lights (Texas). He is also the brother of Wyatt Cullen, who quarterbacked his team to the Texas State Championship last season–not to mention the son of former NFL quarterback and local legend, Troy Cullen. To be a Cullen in Texas is to be royalty . . . and a quarterback. All of which leaves 14-year-old Jake in a Texas-sized shadow, a tall order for any boy, especially one who’s merely a freshman.
While his teammates assume the starting job will be handed to Jake on a silver platter, the truth is that he has to fight for every snap and every ounce of respect. Jake may be a Cullen and he may play quarterback, but he is not his brother or his father. Being a good teammate comes naturally to Jake; being a winner and a celebrity does not. He’s just like every other boy–awkward around a pretty girl, in awe of his famous family, and desperate to simultaneously blend in and cast his own shadow.
We all are expected to live up to our parent’s expectations, to achieve what our older siblings have, possibly even surpass them. But what do you do when you’re expected to become your older brother in every way? This is the dilemma Jake Cullen is facing as he enters his freshman year of high school. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Wyatt, and his father, everyone looks to Jake to become the next Wyatt. Trouble is, Jake has no desire to become anyone other than he already is – himself. What will he do to make his father accept the truth?
I liked Jake from the very beginning. He’s funny, he’s sweet, and he’s loyal beyond doubt. But he’s also stuck between doing what’s right and what makes his family work best. Add to that the fact that he’s the younger brother of the town’s football hero and his difficulties multiply. He’s forced to prove himself more than anyone else and yet, he always somehow manages to do the right thing.
I hadn’t ever realized how big of a deal high school football was in Texas until reading this book. Having something be such a focus of your life can be both good and bad. Good because it gives you focus, gives you something to work towards and obtain. But it can also become very bad when it becomes the only thing you know, the only thing you do, the only thing you think you can achieve. This is the trap that Jake’s father is stuck in. Never having made his own dream come true, he’s trying to make it happen through his sons which leads to some very upsetting times for Jake. There were more than a few times while reading this that I wanted to shake Troy Cullen and say, “Look. Stop it.” But you can’t. All you can do is hope that he sees what’s happening himself and makes that effort to fix it as soon as possible.
QB1 is an amazing story of family, football, and all that comes with it. The beauty of this novel is that even if you’re not football royalty in small-town Texas, you can still relate to the Cullens and their struggles. At its heart it’s not about football, it’s about family and being the best person that you can possibly be, despite what anyone else thinks you should be. Who knows, you might even be surprised at who you really are in the end.