Cracking the Bell III

After this, I’ll stop talking about it all for a while!
There are plenty of negatives that come with a high school sport like football. Yes. Of course. Potentially life-changing collisions (few, but they do occur, and they are enormously publicized), danger that intense social integration goes cult-like and players stop believing everyone else’s rules apply to them, sexism, bullying, ego run-amok…The intensity distills so many of our human and societal problems in a way that they might manifest more intensely, in more troubling ways in some places.
Football has a bad reputation and some of it is deserved.
But, I often wonder what would have become of me without having had football. Or what would’ve happened if it had been taken away from me after knowing it, before I was mature enough to apply what I’d learned from it elsewhere?
This is what I imagine: I’d have been aimless at sixteen, driving around and around on country roads, looking for thrills (pretty dangerous — if you think football is dangerous, check out teen driving statistics). I did drama and music, but they did not exhaust me like I needed to be exhausted. In eighth grade, my friends and I jumped our bikes off cliffs into a way-too-shallow river. I needed to be exhausted. One time, my eighth grade social science teacher made me stay after school and hop up and down making fart noises for thirty minutes. I can’t remember what I’d done, but clearly, I needed to be exhausted.
Would I have learned that getting back up again and again after getting knocked flat means something? You literally get knocked flat. You literally get up and go after it again. That repeated action becomes a simple, super metaphor later. It’s been the guiding metaphor for me.
What about kids who are losing the game, now? If I was a kid now and my mom wouldn’t let me play (seriously, my mom would not let me play, now, given the injury headlines), would I have found social connections like I ended up having, still many of the most fundamental and important in my life? Would I be a sixteen-year-old on my phone, alone, growing isolated? Maybe. Seems like a sense of isolation is pervasive, now. I had some anxiety. I suffered like teens suffer. I was not ever isolated. I always had fifty teammates ready to go and do.
Without that, I really don’t know what would’ve become of me.
Isaiah in Cracking the Bell has found himself in football. He is on the cusp of losing the game, and really, his identity, because of injury, because of the danger. When I started writing the book, it was with that what if premise. What if this kid who has steadied himself through football, loses football? Would he fall back to who he was? Would he take what he’d learned and do bad things with it? Would he accept and move on?
I wasn’t sure what would become of him. He had to work all this out for me. I feel like Isaiah taught me a lot.
If any of this speaks to you, maybe read Cracking the Bell.
Get at Amazon.
Get at Indiebound.

Cracking the Bell I: Football was good for me.

Cracking the Bell, certainly my last football book, comes out tomorrow, so I’m going to post a few times in the next few hours. We’ll start here: I was a damn mess until high school football. It organized me in sudden fashion. It was exhausting. It hurt. It was thrilling. It facilitated tight friendships with every kind of kid in my school. It physically crushed me. I got over getting crushed and went back again and again. That experience shaped how I handled trouble and failure ever after. I didn’t actually get rich, though.IMG_0704

50 Things I Thought While Writing Hooper

When a book comes out, you get asked about your inspiration a lot. For Hooper, I have had a really hard time articulating it, because the book comes from lots of places. Here’s a list of some things I thought, at least.

  1. Hey. I love basketball!
  2. I’m so short. I write jokes, not dunk basketballs. This is sad.
  3. We’re refusing refugees here. My dad was born Jewish in Antwerp, Belgium in 1940. In May, the Nazis came. My family fled. More on this…
  4. Not much before, something similar on my Mom’s side. My grandpa was born near Konigsberg, which was disputed land. German, Russian, Polish, Lithuanian.
  5. When Grandpa was 8, he saw his neighbor shot to death by a militia. Grandpa watched the men kick the body into a ditch. The family had to leave Eastern Europe.
  6. How did they get to southern Minnesota? Thank you, Minnesota. We’re refusing refugees here.
  7. Grandpa grew up. He farmed. He worked at Hormel. He built houses with his own hands, because he could. He was so good at it.
  8. Who is good at basketball? LeBron James.
  9. Who else? I once taught high school English in Warsaw, Poland. One of my students was on the junior national basketball team. She had the best handle I’ve ever seen up close.
  10. Like Lindsay Whalen. Kyrie Irving. Steph Curry.
  11. I think: Seimone Augustus! Maya Moore! The Minnesota Lynx!
  12. And I think about this: In a couple of my books, police officers are the heroes. I love those guys. They represent the best.
  13. But. Systemic racism is real. It is real. It is real. It is real.
  14. Michael Brown.Tamir Rice. Eric Garner. And on. And on. And on.
  15. Denying fact is un-American! We are an experiment of The Enlightenment! We are called to become more perfect, to establish justice and strive for liberty, for ourselves and our posterity. Use facts.
  16. These are some from 2015: 13% of all black Americans killed by police were unarmed. 7% of white Americans killed by the police were unarmed. Black men made up 6% of the U.S. population but 40% of all unarmed Americans killed by police.
  17. I am so sick to my stomach.
  18. One reason I make jokes. And I like basketball.
  19. These are funny: James Harden, The Beard. Kristaps Porzingis, The Unicorn.
  20. The Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat?
  21. I think about basketball twelve hours every day. I can’t help it.
  22. Andrew Wiggins. Karl-Anthony Towns. The Timberwolves. All day long.
  23. Have you seen Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon’s historic post game?
  24. And this: My dad’s mom, my grandmother, watched the air battle over Dunkirk as my family fled Antwerp (my infant dad in her lap). Nazi planes strafed refugees.
  25. Later, a member of the SS held my infant dad while my grandparents were interrogated. Apparently, my dad gurgled and smiled. The family got away.
  26. They got visas to Brazil. Thank you, Brazil.
  27. At age 18, my dad used a student visa to study in the U.S. Thank you. He met my mom in New York.
  28. When my grandmother was middle-aged (like I am now) she followed my dad to America. Here, she reinvented herself. Here, she worked. She went to concerts. She listened to WQXR late into the night. She translated books and documents until the day before she died at 83. Thank you.
  29. But my dad once told me he never felt home. Never. Immigrating is hard.
  30. But he was safe. Thank you.
  31. The tempest tossed, the huddled masses, these refugees. Open arms. This is the best we can be.
  32. Almost all my family who stayed in Belgium, in Poland, died in the camps.
  33. What’s happening in Syria?
  34. Make some jokes. Make some jokes. That’s what you do.
  35. And think about basketball. Joel Embiid. Tamika Catchings.
  36. Tamika Catchings threw her hearing aids into the woods when she was a kid, because she hated how people looked at her. Oh, she could ball, though. She overcame. She is proud.
  37. Being good at sports (like being good at anything) is a privilege. It is a passport.
  38. Imagine catching a lob and dunking it!
  39. (It can’t happen.) (Imagine it!) (Sweet ass amazing.) (Hang on the rim.)
  40. In high school, I could hang on the rim. My gym teacher would yell at me, but I didn’t care, because, holy shit!
  41. High school. Rural Wisconsin. I love rural Wisconsin. Thank you.
  42. Thank you to the deplorables? It’s where the deplorables, live? This divisive language coming from all sides makes me sick.
  43. I grew up in a small town in the midwest. I live in a small town in the midwest. There are jackasses, of course, but mostly not. There are baskets full of great, funny, thoughtful people.
  44. But, yeah, some of them say and do terrible stuff. There’s a cancer growing in us.
  45. And the people who believe the stuff I believe are going bad, too, so vicious, unforgivable, I start to think all hope is lost for this place. I feel so sick.
  46. But no. Sorry.
  47. Because this is not the end. This is still the middle of our story. Think of Grandma, escaped from the holocaust, arrived in America where she could be safe, where she could flourish. Think of Grandpa building houses.
  48. I believe in learning. I believe in our capacity to change. I believe in redemption.
  49. I believe in the endless bounty that will come to us because we keep trying and trying and trying. We’re roughed up, but not broke.
  50. And, remember this, too. Basketball. I know you will.


Stupid Fast Info


Cybil’s Award for Best Young Adult Fiction

American Booksellers’ Association Best of the Year list

Junior Library Guild Selection (All Three Stupid Fast Books)

YALSA (American Library Association) Best of the Year list

Minnesota Book Award for Young Peoples’ Lit (For Nothing Special)

Outstanding Book by a Wisconsin Author

Georgia Peach Award Finalist

Illinois Abe Lincoln Award Finalist

Penn Young Readers Choice Award Finalist

Indiana Eliot Rosewater Award Finalist

Florida Teen Reads List



“Whip-smart and painfully self-aware, Stupid Fast is a funny and agonizing glimpse into the teenage brain…Young readers looking for a genuinely memorable first-person narrator — in the vein of Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or Pete Hautman’s Godless — should really catch up to Stupid Fast this summer.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 8, 20011

“This story has a little bit of everything: the challenges of growing up, the issues surrounding interracial romance, navigating tough class issues, and a narrator who is one of the most real, honest, and still funny male voices to come around in a while.” — The Hub, YALSA, June 23, 2011

“In the tradition of great young adult protagonists like Holden Caulfield and Eric “Moby” Calhoune comes Felton Reinstein, soon to be sixteen… This novel is Herbach’s first for a teen audience, but you would not guess that from the authentic teen voice of his protagonist.The author manages to deftly balance humor with high-stakes, emotional storytelling and even includes some romance to boot. Surprises abound in this future youth classic, not the least of which is how Felton comes to terms with his newfound inner jock. While male reluctant readers with an interest in football or running will especially connect with this novel, it is difficult to imagine a reader who will not find Felton’s tale compelling and highly entertaining.” —VOYA, June 2011

“It’s rare to gain access to a male teen’s thoughts at his most vulnerable… Felton is a hero for all readers–male and female. And Herbach (who admits to growing up in Wisconsin as “both a dork and a jock”) is a writer to watch.”– Jennifer M. Brown, Shelf Awareness, May 18, 2011.

“In the end, Felton’s sarcasm, anxiety, self-doubt, thoughtfulness, and compassion carry the day and perfectly capture the voice of his generation.” — School Library Journal, August 2011

“A great read for all teen and adult readers.  I loved this!  It almost moved me to tears as it provided insight into the mind of an adolescent.” Library Media Connection, October 2011

“Herbach…created a protagonist, Felton Reinstein, whose infectious energy nearly leaps off the page.” Read Jeanne Kolker from Wisconsin State Journal.

“A convincing riff on adolescent metamorphosis…Herbach is at his peak limning the confusion and frustration of a young man who no longer recognizes his own body, and Felton’s self-deprecating take on his newly awarded A-list status is funny and compelling.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Stupid Fast captures the rollicking ride of growing up in a broken home with a rare mix of raw honesty and hilarity. The pages race past, powered by a memorable voice, pulling you into the strange and thrilling journey of this Dork turned Jock. In other words: Stupid Fast is Stupid Good!” — Peter Bognanni, Author of House of Tomorrow

“In this struggling and often clueless teen, Herbach has created an endearing character coming to terms with his past and present in a small, well-defined Wisconsin town.” — Booklist, May 15, 2011

“Geoff Herbach’s STUPID FAST was not at all what I expected. I anticipated a humorous romp about a school jock.  Instead STUPID FAST (great title) is a gritty, often harrowing tale of an appealing high-school student trying to find his way.  As if school and its cliques don’t offer enough challenge, Felton (aka Rein Stone) copes with his highly dysfunctional family.  Readers will quickly sympathize with this kid who is simply trying to find his way. Who doesn’t love a story of the underdog’s redemption?”—Christopher Rose, Andover Bookstore, Andover, MA



Giveaway for School/Teachers

I’m going to give away the last of my Anything You Want ARCs to schools and teachers. I’ll post again if I don’t run out, but message me, email me, whatever, if you’d like one for your school or classroom. This is 8th grade+. Pass it along, too.


Geoff Herbach’s Anything You Want – as thoughtful as it is hilarious

Very grateful to Queenbook for this review! Taco is an unreliable narrator. If you don’t get that, you should put down the book and move on to things you love… If you do get it, I think you’ll like this book.

Handheld Dream

If you can tolerate the lovable idiot who narrates this book, you will find a pretty amazing story inside.  I do not tolerate lovable idiots easily, so trust me when I say this – Anything You Want is definitely worth the read.  It is so funny and so full of heart, and I can’t imagine a smarter way to entertain and still engage readers in thoughtful commentary on big life lessons.  I do have to say that this is one time I really scored a book a lot higher than other critics.  I gave it five stars, but it only has a three star average on Goodreads – again, you have to commit to the lovable idiot and actually finish the book to see what I saw.


Goodreads Summary

Expect a bundle of joy—er, trouble—in this hilarious, heartwarming story from the award-winning author of Stupid Fast Geoff Herbach

Taco’s mom…

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It is Finally Taco Tuesday

Taco Tuesday. This is weirdest book I’ve written and I am very proud of it. It’s about a good TacoTheKeeperkid named Taco. It is officially released today.

I’m reading at the Barnes and Noble in Mankato tomorrow at 7pm and will be at Addendum Books on May 14 at 4pm. I’d love to see you.

Steph packed tacos for lunch. This is true (although I don’t think she was thinking about my book).


I’ll be reading at the Barnes and Noble at River Hills Mall in Mankato on Wednesday, May 4 at 7pm and I’ll be reading at Addendum Books on May 14 at 4pm.

I’d love you to get the book at an indie. Of course, it is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, too.

I am…

Geoff Herbach. I am the author of Stupid Fast and Nothing Special, among a bunch of other stuff. When I'm not writing, I teach writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.

Stupid Fast

Nothing Special

I’m With Stupid

Fat Boy (Gabe Johnson Takes Over)

PowderKeg Stage

My Bizzle

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