Oh Friday Night Lights (FNL). This is hands down my favorite TV series of all time. If you should ever be caught in a conversation about FNL with me in person, buckle up, I have a lot of things to say about why I love this show so dearly. It’s a series that follows members of the small-town, football loving, Dillon, TX. The Dillon Panthers are the epi-center of this town’s world, which puts intense pressure on the teens who play on the team and the coach leading the team to meet the high expectations of all the community members. The heart of this show is Coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his wife, Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), who navigate this pressure and the responsibility of being at the helm of this beloved team. The relationship between Tami and Eric is everything and the way they become rooted into the lives of all the players and people in the community will give you all the feels. Rounding out the program is a cast full of youth (who admittedly appear to be much older than teens) with troubles of their own and a town of strong characters who surround the football team. If you are already a FNL fan, or the themes of the show interest you, then I would recommend checking out the following books. Although these two books are quite different from one another, they each possess something that had me feeling FNL vibes.
First & Then
If you liked the teen drama and angst elements of the show, then this YA contemporary novel might be up your ally. It follows Devon, a high school senior, who is sort of a bump on a log that doesn’t make a lot of decisions for herself. She is perfectly content following around her best friend, Cas, like a puppy and avoiding the inevitability of graduation. When she and her parents unexpectedly find themselves caring for her less-than-cool and fragile younger cousin, Foster, Devon is forced to give up her only-child status and chip in to help her cousin settle in. Taking Foster begrudingly under her wing requires Devon to step out into a social scene she is not used to navigating y herself in order to introduce her cousin to other kids at their high school. For some unexplained reason, the football team’s star-running back, Ezra (think Tim Riggins ya’ll), has taken a liking to Devon’s nerdy little cousin and she finds herself crossing paths and working with him to help Foster fit into their community. This book gave me all the FNL vibes if you just followed the teen characters of the book. Bonus points are also given to this book for the many, many Jane Austen references. Click here to see my full review of First & Then.
If you were interested in the sociology of a town that bowed down to football and how that can shape a community, Beartown might be of interest to you. This beautifully-written contemporary fiction book takes place in the the small town of Beartown, whose collective dream is to see their junior ice hockey team bring home a national championship. You follow a set of characters who are in one way or another involved with the team as they react to a serious accusation against the star player. It was a rare experience to see all sides of a story and how each person is impacted by the alleged act of one teenager. This book also looks at how behavior like that of the accused could have been unintentionally cultivated or enabled through the culture built in the locker room of the ice hockey arena. I have really just touched the tip of the important themes this book elegantly and fearlessly covers, but the focus here are the aspects I found strikingly similar to that of FNL. The extreme devotion depicted in this book to this sports team and its players sometimes comes at a great cost. It’s the underbelly of Dillon, TX unveiled in the form of Beartown, Sweden. Click here to see my full review of Beartown.