One Shot Away | T. Glen Coughlin | Book Review

I am not sure about you, but as someone who grew up not very athletically inclined, but came to see the light when it comes to exercise as an adult, I find myself immensely attracted to young adult books where sports play a central role. I’ll admit I did participate in: cheerleading, swim team, and volleyball plus a few 3-on-3 basketball tournaments growing up. However, I was never very good at sports. In One Shot Away by T. Glen Coughlin, the three protagonists are actually very, very serious about their sport – wrestling – and definitely fall into an elite class of athlete. It was very interesting reading about the boys’ dedication to the sport. ALSO you know what ELSE caught my attention? The Harper Collins catalog blurb compared One Shot Away to Friday Night Lights, and so I knew I would have to give it a shot, because all the cool kids know that is one bombass TV show.

One Shot Away by T. Glen Coughlin | Good Books And Good Wine

Set in the part of New Jersey that isn’t the shore, One Shot Away focuses on Jimmy, Diggy, and Trevor – three wrestlers who want to have a winning season. Jimmy and Diggy are seniors and it’s important to both to get their names up on the wall. Jimmy was nearly undefeated last year and is expected to continue his streak. Diggy, on the other hand, wrestles dirty and finds that Trevor Crow is challenging him for his spot. There is drama aplenty in T. Glen Coughlin’s One Shot Away as we read about the three and their struggles – because each character has problems beyond winning and losing their individual matches.

Jimmy is the star of the wrestling team. He dates one of the more popular girls at school – Roxanne. From the outside looking in, he doesn’t have it quite so bad. Only, when we start One Shot Away, Jimmy is reluctantly accompanying his dad on a midnight ride to steal lumber. This is important because it basically messes with Jimmy’s life for the rest of the book. Like, we see the real stress having a dad who walks the wrong side of the law has on Jimmy. Then there is Diggy whose brother is a legacy. Diggy is from a wealthy family. He’s very entitled, yet there’s a lot of pressure on him. Diggy’s dad is kind of abusive and totally expects Diggy to equal his brother — who is away at college. Finally, the third point of view character is Trevor Crow. Trevor’s dealing with the pain of losing his dad to a freak car accident. Unfortunately Trevor’s mom is broke as a joke and so they end up moving to and working in a crappy motel. OH and Trevor has bulked up and wants Diggy’s weight class on varsity.

I liked that T. Glen Coughlin made use of alternating point of views in One Shot Away. I thought the various viewpoints provided diverse experiences of being on the team, and even more than that a look at the relationship between father and son. You guys, I didn’t even pick up on that until writing out this review ha ha, but that’s such a BIG theme. Like, Trevor has the dead father, Diggy the abusive domineering dad, and Jimmy’s Pops cares about him but has questionable morals. It’s a good look at dysfunction now that I think about it, and shows how that transcends class. As with most multi-main character books, I did wind up preferring certain points of view over others. Like, to be honest with you I thought Diggy was a total douche and even though he redeems himself, I still much preferred Trevor and Jimmy to Diggy.

Obviously wrestling plays a super huge role in One Shot Away. Like, we get to see the total discipline of the team. Plus, how important it is to make weight and the lengths the characters will go to. Various scenes depicted the matches and the atheleticsm involved. Granted, I am no expert in wrestling (although my uncle built a wrestling room in his house for my cousin wayyyy back when), I felt I could follow along with the pins and not be confused.I also think it’s interesting how wrestling is a very individual sport — it’s only two people against each other, yet the team was quite bonded.

Unfortunately, One Shot Away isn’t the greatest book I’ve ever read. I would say it’s good but not like a favorite or really great. For one, it took me a very long time to get into — however I also ended up making myself read 30 pages a day to finish it. That’s fine, but I just wasn’t always motivated to pick it up. I also found myself dreading a few parts. Also? It’s not entirely like Friday Night Lights but that’s more my own hang up and fault because I actually listened to a comparison. I guess I was waiting for a Tim Riggins and he never showed up to the book. OH OH and I could not get over my distaste for Diggy who seemed to have the most POV chapters.

Regardless, T. Glen Coughlin’s One Shot Away is not a bad book, but an interesting portrayal of high school sports and the drive and dedication involved. I’d recommend it if you want to know more about wrestling or maybe know someone who is super into sports and thus wouldn’t be adverse to reading about the love of the game.

Disclosure: Received for review

Other reviews of One Shot Away by T. Glen Coughlin:

Chick Loves Lit – “I’m an advocate for good sports focused books

Once Upon A Twilight – “storyline is truly clever along with being a little edgy

Wake Up At Seven – “This isn’t a book you’ll want to miss, especially for fans of wrestling

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Oh no, I must not be one of the cool kids. Sports movies/tv shows/books aren’t usually something I’m drawn to, and I have never seen Friday Night Lights. Maybe I should look into it, though. It’s on Netflix. Hmm . . .

    • It’s okay Quinn. Some of us are drawn to athleticism and some are not, nothing wrong with that. However, Friday Night Lights is totally excellent and worth watching whether you like sports or not.

  2. From what you’ve described of the dads in this book and the pressures they go through, it’s probably why they compared it to FNL, but mostly likely the movie the show was based on. There’s a lot of that in the FNL movie. This doesn’t sound like something I’d actively seek to read, and especially not if it didn’t really grab you. Thanks for the review, April!!

    • WrestlingIsMyLife says

      I read One Shot Away midseason last year. I am wrestling in college, and wrestled for four years in high school. I liked this book. I could relate to the characters. I thought Diggy was pretty typical of the one kid on the team that just gets under your skin so bad you want to rip your skin off. Isn’t there always one guy like that on every team? Anyway, I liked it for a lot of reasons, some personal that I’m not going to get into, but I thought that Diggy’s A-hole father is a lot like the fathers I’ve met over the years. It’s a vicious circle, the father pushing the son so hard, then the son pushing himself, then him taking it out on everyone in his way. I’ve also met guys like Trevor, who put their focus on wrestling when everything else is falling apart. That’s the beautiful thing about wrestling, it’s a life style, a way of eating, a way of living. Maybe Coughlin could have put in a character who has no problems and has loving parents and a great girlfriend and no money concerns, of course, if I wanted that, I’d go to a chick flick. I think wrestlers are going to be reading this book and liking it.

      • I do think putting in the line about going to a chick flick is a bit sexist.

        That stated, I am glad you enjoyed the book. I actually really liked Trevor and Jimmy and wasn’t saying this book is bad because I wasn’t a fan of Diggy. I also wasn’t trying to imply that because the characters have problems the book is bad. I actually prefer reading about kids who don’t have it easy, I just wasn’t a fan of how Diggy dealt with it, especially concerning Whizzer the dog. But that’s me and my taste and I am perfectly clear about that in the review and make sure to put that out there rather than state someone shouldn’t read it. I also try to always point out in my reviews what does and does not work for me. So, I am sorry if you did take offense or if you think this review came off as me hating the book because I didn’t like Diggy, that is not the case. And I am not sure if you missed the last line, but I wrote: ‘I’d recommend it if you want to know more about wrestling or maybe know someone who is super into sports and thus wouldn’t be adverse to reading about the love of the game.’ which is absolutely not a condemnation of the book at all, but a recommendation.

    • Jess, I haven’t actually seen the movie, but looks like I will have to check it out.

      Alas, this isn’t the book for everyone but there is definitely an audience out there for it.

  3. I’m really happy you reviewed this one, April. One of my students is on his way to 100 wrestling wins this year and would love reading One Shot Away. I’ve never heard of it before now, but you can be sure I’m going to order him a copy ASAP! 🙂

  4. This actually sounds like a book that I’d recommend to my cousin, who just so happens to have been a wrestler when he was in high school. I think he’d enjoy the fact that there’s a nod to his sport in this book!