Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them.
A few months ago, I saw this book on a blogger’s list of recommendations for Hufflepuffs. I can’t actually remember who made that post, or I would’ve linked it here. However, they described it as a queer sports camp romance for Hufflepuffs. Doesn’t that just sound fantastic? I knew I wanted to read it then. While I was at YALC during the summer, one of the stands was selling this book! It was the perfect opportunity. I bought it there, and started reading while I was waiting in line for signings. I ended up finishing it the next day because I just couldn’t put it down.
What is Running With Lions really about? It follows Sebastian and his friends as they go to their yearly summer training camp. They all play on the football team (soccer), and every year they train together for a few weeks before the season starts. This helps them get back in shape and get familiar with the team again.
This year, however, Emir Shah shows up at summer training camp. Emir is Sebastian’s childhood friend, but they haven’t really talked in the past few years. As they start training together, Sebastian starts falling for Emir.
I simply adored this book. I’ve always liked summer camp stories, but one that’s both Hufflepuff and queer? Sign me up. Like I mentioned before, I absolutely flew through this book. Every time I had to put it down, I was sad. Which is ridiculous because the reasons I put it down were so exciting! There were book signings, book sales, new friends to make, and Comic Con. And all I could think about was finishing this book.
Before I say anything about the characters themselves, I want to address the diversity in this book. I can’t speak for the representation, but I can say that I’m happy that this novel was diverse. Step in the right direction, everyone! There’s a:
- bisexual main and side character
- gay side characters
- Pakistani, Muslim character
- black side character
- Hispanic side character
This is the composition of Sebastian’s team, obviously, as it is their summer camp. I adore how it is emphasized that their coach made sure to build a team where everyone is accepted and safe. A safe space for LGBT+ athletes… We can only dream about it. The coach also mentions why that’s so important to him, and it made me love him even more.
The main character of this novel is Sebastian. I love, love, love Sebastian. The person who made the recommendation list was so right, Sebastian is definitely a Hufflepuff. He’s so kind, supportive and loyal – not that people from other houses can’t have any of these traits. When Emir shows up and doesn’t really get along with the team, he wants to make every effort to ensure the team embraces him. It’s so adorable, and I think we all need a Sebastian in our lives. He also identifies as bisexual, which is clearly stated on the page.
Then there is Emir. Emir is Pakistani and Muslim, and has a very specific reason for coming to summer training camp. I don’t want to ruin anything for you, so you’ll have to discover what it is for yourselves. I ADORED EMIR. Listen, I’m overflowing with love for these characters.
I’m going to be honest, I loved everyone in this book aside from Mason. He was horrible to Gray for no reason whatsoever, and I think he’s awful.
Something that stood out to me while reading this book was that it addresses fat shaming, bullying, and body positivity for men. While we are talking more and more about body positivity and loving your body, most people only connect the movement with women. But men can suffer from body image issues too! Sebastian was bullied when he was a kid for being fat, and it has definitely left its scars. He believes himself to be fat/undesirable. I love that this book addressed body positivity, and I love the conversation he has with Emir about it.
I loved this book, if you couldn’t tell already. It’s adorable, cute, and wonderful. It made me feel all the things, and I hope everyone else picks this book up too. I can only think of one negative thing about this book: Mason. Everything else is fantastic.