The F Team by Rawah Arja
Tariq Nader is lucky enough to have a close group of friends in his life – dubbed ‘The Wolf Pack’ – but his under-resourced high school is struggling. Constant negative media attention has whipped up suspicions that Punchbowl High is, in Tariq’s words, ‘too terroristy’. A new principal, Mr Archie, is hired in a last-ditch attempt to avoid closure, but his tough disciplinary style leaves Tariq, Ibby, PJ and Huss unimpressed. The four boys are required to participate in a rugby competition that teams them up with students from Cronulla, and the resulting culture clash changes the boys forever.
The F Team is a funny, moving debut novel with a large cast of complex characters who are each battling their own hidden vulnerabilities. Protagonist Tariq is a gem; a natural leader with fabled ‘potential’, who also has a knack of constantly disappointing the adults around him. The Wolf Pack struggle to control their anger, to admit their problems to each other, to submit to authority, to be sensitive to other’s feelings, but they’re also responsible and loving family members, faithful to their religion, loyal and ultimately very caring. Rawah Arja has painted such a lively, affectionate and hilarious portrait of Tariq’s Lebanese–Australian Muslim family and the broader Punchbowl community, not to mention the secret teenage world of pranks, revenge, rivalries, crushes and teasing.
The F Team depicts perfectly the hard work of growing up, the incremental moments of change and growth, the surprising forms that lessons come in, and the necessity of taking responsibility for mistakes. It’s a truly wild and enjoyable ride; there’s a hellish boot camp, slam poetry, budding romance, organic honey, viral videos, visiting Aunties, and of course, lots of action on the football field. For ages 13+.