In the interest of full disclosure, I was given this book for review purposes.
Title: Always Picked Last: A Guide to Finding Your Way in Life
Author: Coach Kevin Kearns
Publisher: Tambuli Media
This one of those books that turned out to be much more than I thought it was going to be. I got this more as an aid to my high school teacher mode of thinking, than as a martial artist's way of thinking. I was surprised by the brutal honesty and heartfelt story that it portrayed. This book had me reading it continuously. I finished the book in two or three days. In my hectic life, where time is a luxury, this was a book I couldn't put down.
This book is the biography of one Mr. Kevin Kearns who grew up bullied. It starts with the just "kids being kids" stage of bullying and goes through the stories of adolescents and young adulthood where his choices start to be his own. Of course, martial arts is a part of this story, otherwise this wouldn't be the correct soapbox for this book.
The most important part of this book is the storytelling. Mr. Kearns does an amazing job of showing you from the inside what being bullied feels like. Its actually quite heartbreaking. I found myself reflecting back to my own youth and considering if I had been on either side of the bullying issue. I don't think I have, but the reflection is the purpose itself. This book brings about a huge feeling of empathy. The author then talks about how physical activity in the form of weightlifting and martial arts bring about the change in mindset to stop the bullying. There is a slow buildup to the final confrontation that you know is coming, but, as it is a biography, it doesn't happen in some contrite prescribed way. The tension builds throughout the entire telling of the story. The whole book does a great job of first explaining things from a kid's perspective, and slowly shifting through the adolescent mindset, to reflecting on it from adulthood.
I really don't have anything bad to say about the book, except that it IS an autobiography, which just adds to the empathy this book achieves. It's a little on the short side? Is that a bad thing? Seeing as it is the childhood and teenage torturing of a person, no.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. In its own way, this book is a real life Karate Kid type of story, where the positive effects of martial arts, and physical training in general come to fruition. In fact it goes even further to show that through his hard work, Mr. Kearns becomes Coach Kearns. A UFC level strength trainer, among his other accomplishments. I loved the story presented in this book. It was masterly told and in a way that made you feel sorry for the young protagonist, and glad when he makes the right decisions to better his life. Its for these reasons that I'm going to give this book a rarely achieved 5 out of 5 Ninja Stars. There isn't anything new in this book, but the method of presentation is what makes this book so great. I hope everyone reads it.