Sports gambling has flourished in the shadows of American society for decades. For some, it becomes a life altering addiction. Influenced Innocence is a fictional story that emphasizes how casual betting can turn into an uncontrollable urge.
The novella focuses on a group of middle school students forming a recess football league. The league is designed for students to have fun, healthy competition. With the introduction of “Nether Bucks”, a currency students can earn from getting good grades, the league inevitably becomes corrupt as students use the currency to bet on games.
Eventually Justin, the protagonist, recognizes the negative impact the gambling has on his group of friends. After witnessing suspicious incidents, he also begins to believe that those in charge of the league may be fixing the games in their favor.
Throughout the story, there are multiple topics discussed such as real scandals that happened in the professional sports world, sports psychology for athletes, the rapid development of a gambling addiction, how the addiction affects relationships between friends and family, and how a child’s upbringing influences their behaviors.
The story also emphasizes how the American sports industry and its relation with gambling companies and media outlets collectively prey on the individuals seeking to make money through sports gambling.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
As I read the young adult chapter book, I was left speechless several times. It was disturbing how quickly a casual pickup game at recess could turn so dark. Relationships became strained, some ending altogether. Players intentionally injured opposing teams. And why? Greed.
As a new year started at Netherfield Middle School, Principal Oli addressed the students about a learning incentive. For every B on a test, a student would receive Nether Bucks. The higher the grade, the more bucks a student would earn. Students could cash in the fake bucks for items in the gift shop located in the school’s library. Jewelry. BMX bikes. Game consoles. There were numerous prizes up for grabs, and kids who would lie, cheat, and hurt others to fatten their wallets to purchase an item.
No matter which of the four teams was facing off, the writer made you feel like you were watching the game on the sidelines and listening to hurtful taunts from the crowd. Not surprisingly, the hate-filled words took place on social media, too. What made this book a page-turner was the real-life elements. Adult sports spectators do lose control of their emotions and scream at players and coaches, and sometimes let their fists do their talking. Kids see this volatile behavior as normal and begin mimicking it, just like in this story.
I was stunned by how many kids developed a gambling problem and how they craved violence and asked for it. The fate of one particular student stocked me. I was surprised by the depths students would go to win a football game. I couldn’t fathom how the faculty, especially the principal, failed to see what occurred at recess. With all the STARTLING scenes comes a lesson learned. Maybe reading how gambling can ruin a life and how unsportsmanlike behavior can lead to devastating results will teach readers NOT to take sports so seriously and to think twice about gambling.
I recommend sharing this book with your elementary students, followed by a nice chat about the dangers of gambling, bullying, and unsportsmanlike conduct!
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