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Sports Novel

Crossover by Kwame Alexander

February 10, 2021

“A loss is inevitable

like snow in winter.

True champions

learn 

to dance

through 

the storm.”

Seventh grader Josh Bell plays basketball with his twin brother, Jordan, and they are exceptionally talented. Their mom is the assistant principal at their school and their dad was an Italian League basketball player. They are very close with their father who taught them how to play and comes to all of their games. But after Jordan meets a girl he likes, he stops paying as much attention to his brother, so Josh decides he has to get his focus back onto basketball and claiming the championship. However, there are a few unexpected hurdles on and off the court that could make winning difficult.

Alexander wrote Crossover as a free-verse novel, which is when the whole story is told through free-verse poems. This is very effective because it really slows readers down and focuses them on each individual poem, which makes readers catch more of the theme and plot and makes the story more enjoyable. This book is in the realistic sports fiction genre, and it was interesting to see that because it was mostly sports focused in the beginning of the book, but near the end it switches to almost all realistic fiction. The plot is not full of action, but there are no slow parts in the story.

Crossover is written in first person from the point of view of Josh, which allows Alexander to show how Josh feels about everything in the book involving the conflict between the twin brothers. I found this effective because it made me side with the protagonist, Josh. I thought that Alexander added strong diction during the basketball games that he put into the book, which made them suspenseful and fun to read about. 

I would recommend Booked by Kwame Alexander to readers who enjoyed this book because it is a different free-verse novel by the same author, and the plot is fast. I think that Alexander made the themes different, and that made them both enjoyable. Alexander also wrote Rebound, which I have not yet read.

I think this book had an enjoyable, fast-paced plot, the characters were relatable, and the writing was very easy to follow. I thought it was one of the best sports-related books I have ever read before, and I read many in this genre. I would rate this book a ten out of ten, and I would recommend this book to anyone because it is not just a sports book—it’s intriguing and fun to read.                                                

Aidan

Houghton Publishing Company, 237 pages


Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

February 29, 2020

Fifteen-year-old Felton Reinstein has a lot going on. He lives with his mom and brother. His dad committed suicide when he was five, and his mom is still recovering. Felton’s best friend Gus left for the summer to live with his ill grandmother in Venezuela, and Felton has to take over his paper route. In a physical fitness test at his school he had a better running time than everyone else. This leads to the football coach recruiting him to play on the schools football team with all the people who have made fun of him for years. Suddenly, he has to learn to learn to fit in on the team at the same time as dealing with everything going on at home with his mom. This summer Felton has to learn a lot of new things he’s never done before.

Geoff Herbach writes in the first person in Stupid Fast, with shorter chapters: each one telling a story about what is happening in Felton’s life. This is interesting because the reader sees what he does in every situation and how he learns each time. Herbach shows every part of Felton’s life, good and bad, and that makes it hard for the reader to predict what was coming next in the book because it is so up and down.

I liked how Herbach made the book fast paced because there were a lot of smaller problems throughout the book. These were not hard to follow because they all affect the main problem and how he deals with it.

Stupid Fast is the first of a three book series by Herbach. The second book is called Nothing Special, which I have not yet read, and the third book is called I’m with Stupid. I have read I’m with Stupid, and I enjoyed it, but it does get a little repetitive throughout the book. It’s not like Stupid Fast because it’s a completely different plot with new characters and problems, though still focused on Felton. But it just seems like he does the same thing over and over again in each situation, and that’s why I liked Stupid Fast better out of the two that I’ve read—because of the character growth that Herbach includes.

I rated this book a ten out of ten and would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys sports fiction with some realistic fiction mixed in. It is a fast paced book with some humor and is not like most other sports books because it has a completely different plot and engaging characters that all add something new to the problem.

Aidan

Sourcebooks Fire, 311 pages


Game by Walter Dean Myers

February 11, 2016

GameDrew Lawson is a senior basketball super star at Baldwin Academy, who is one season away from college. He wants to make senior year his best season yet. In his first three seasons, his team lost in the championships; this time Drew wants to lead his team to the championship title and bring it home. But there is also something stopping this superstar already looking college: his grades. Basketball for him is above and beyond, but his grades haven’t measured up to his athletic super stardom.

I love how Walter Dean Myers was so descriptive during games and how the sounds, thoughts, and feelings were detailed enough to make me feel like I was Drew. I also play basketball, so I could see how Drew passed to Ruffy on the post, or Sky set a pick, etc. I could also feel how Drew felt after winning or losing: emotions most readers can connect to. Some other worthwhile books about basketball are Kwame Alexander’s Crossover, a free-verse novel, and Mike Lupica’s Travel Team, a sports-fiction book.

Myers’ novel is a quick read, with a lot of basketball time, and a lot of twists which made the book enjoyable, as it bounced among the basketball team, the games and Drew’s family. I enjoyed that Drew was focused on success. He would try to get the best grades he possibly could for two reasons: one, so he could continue to play basketball, and make his mother, father, and sister proud. Also, one of his motivations is that one of his teammates was caught and put in to custody for armed shoplifting and robbery. Drew wants to play for him, as if he played well enough, his friend, Tony would be freed.

Drew grew so much as a character during hard times in Myers’ novel. Right off the bat, Tony’s incarceration changed how Drew thought about playing basketball. Also, his relationships shifted over the season, especially with one of the new white kids. Tomas comes from Prague, Czechoslovakia. He played there, but he was flooded, and his father got a job in New York.He tried to bring him into the basketball “family” at Baldwin , and that is also a way Drew changed as a main character. He also grew by playing, as any other athlete would: through technique and friendships.

Any basketball player out there will love Myers’ novel, and I could easily read it again and love it every time. My rating: one hundred and ten out of one hundred.

Griffin

Harper Teen, 218 Pages


The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

February 10, 2016

Art FieldingNot many of us have played college baseball. Not all of us have even played baseball at any level. But all of us should read Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding.

The Art of Fielding follows eighteen-year-old Henry Skrimshander, through his journey from a small town player to a pro-scouted college athlete. After being discovered by a college player, Henry’s baseball skills take him to Westish College, a small Mid-western school. Quickly, Henry’s baseball prowess causes problems, both for him and the team. Harbach does an incredible job of crafting an interesting, unique, new book for the ages.

Chad Harbach develops multiple, elaborate, characters, who are all, in some way, linked to Henry. Harbach eventually leads them all together, so they meet in a conclusion that can only be described as unexpected.

While the theme of this book may just appear to be the ups and downs of baseball, a second look shows just how much more it’s about: failure and perseverance, self-doubt, loss, and so much more. Harbach incorporates these themes perfectly into the context of baseball and all the pressure put on Henry because of his skill. Henry’s thoughts throughout the whole second half of the book show the demons he is struggling to rid himself of. This angle of vulnerability makes the book all the more realistic and made me, root for Henry’s recovery.

One pitfall of certain books is a lack of realistic dialogue- often characters’ language sounds forced and fake. The Art of Fielding is the exact opposite, with dialogue that sounds perfectly natural and thoughts and feelings that were real and relatable for me, as a reader.

The style of this book, a third-person narrative heavy with dialogue and introspection gave me a first-hand look into what characters were really like, and allowed me to form opinions about what I thought was going to happen to certain people.

The best books aren’t always the fastest-paced books. Some are dense and slow, while others just drag. The Art of Fielding is an exception to this, as readers are quickly thrown into the action of the book. I personally liked this approach: it kept me engaged instead of losing me on the way to the climax.

Chad Harbach may not be a household name yet, but I believe that with more books like The Art of Fielding, he can become a popular contemporary adult or young-adult writer. I would recommend this book to young adults or older, simply because certain aspects of the books theme wouldn’t make sense to a younger audience. I personally rated it a ten, and think it’s a book everybody should read.

Finally, I advise you not to judge a book by its title. The Art of Fielding sounds like a book meant solely for baseball players, while in reality it is a book anyone could, and should, read.

Back Bay Books, 544 pages

Nicco


Boy21, by Matthew Quick

January 27, 2015

11138172When nationally recruited basketball star Russell’s parents are murdered, he transforms into Boy21, an extraterrestrial creature from the cosmos. This leaves everyone around him confused and worried about his mental state, including Finley, the starting point guard for his high school basketball team. Finley is faced with a choice: to do what’s best for the team and recruit Boy21, or to keep his own starting position. Matthew Quick sends Finley and Boy21 on a rollercoaster of basketball, violence, romances, and choices.

From the preface of this book, Quick gives the reader hundreds of questions to answer throughout the course of this amazing novel. Where is Finley’s mom? Why does Boy21 have a fixation on space? How will Finley get out of Bellmont? All of these questions will be checked off your list as you consume this read.

Quick left my jaw wide open with the last ten pages of this teen fiction that come out of nowhere. I found that I could ingest this whole story within two nights of reading once I let myself indulge fully. Over the course of this book I began to make bets with myself about what would come next, which forced me to read on.

I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been involved with a sport (especially basketball)and who is twelve years or older. Quick captures all the best features of a Walter Dean Myers or Mike Lupica sports fiction novel to create an amazing book. Boy 21 is being developed into a film by Tom Hellner soon. I gave this book a ten out of ten, and I hope you get a chance to rate it that also.

Nolan

Little, Brown and Company, 250 pages

 


The Last Shot, by John Feinstein

May 2, 2010

last_shotJohn Feinstein’s sport mystery series—consisting so far of The Last Shot, Vanishing Act, Cover Up, and Change Up—follows Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in a tradition of light-hearted mysteries, with young detectives you can’t help but root for. But Feinstein gives his a fresh twist—his main characters are young sports writers who have a knack for uncovering major scandals.  It’s a fast, fun series for the investigator in all of us.

The heart of the series is the young detective team of Stevie and Susan Carol. Stevie is an earnest, bumbling, basketball lover.  He’s a funny narrator but two-dimensional and lacking in deep emotion.  Susan Carol is a suave, smart, Southern belle and is obviously the brains of the operation.  They work perfectly together and balance each other out.  I doubt the novels would work with different main characters or with either on his or her own.

This series show the inner workings of sports reporting.  John Feinstein packs them with reporting lingo, like spadework and credentials, and characters who are everything from radio hosts to talking heads.  These books were obviously written by a sports reporter that knows his stuff.  Even I, not a huge sports fan, was enthralled by the hidden side of sports writing and reporting.  The details and characters give insight into that world.  If you’re interested in sports or reporting, these are a must read for you.

The books are all fast paced, with twists and turns and lots of dialogue— perhaps too fast.  The breakneck speed doesn’t leave any time for emotion.  Feinstein attempts to make his characters real by throwing in crushes, jealousy, and young love, but this only adds to their cheesiness.  It’s definitely not a series aimed to readers looking for depth.

The Last Shot, Vanishing Act, Cover Up, and Change Up are perfect lazy Saturday reads.  If you’re a sport lover, mystery lover, or just looking for a fun read, you won’t be disappointed.

Tess

Read more about this title on Amazon.com


Crackback, by John Coy

crackbackIn the beginning of this first-person narrated novel, Crackback, John Coy makes the main character, Miles, seem like a pretty normal high school football player.  Then his friend gives him some caffeine pills, which for Miles is like a gateway drug into steroids, which he takes after friends on the team pressure him bulk up for college scouts.  And that’s when his life starts to change, as pills and other types of steroids, like Danabol, get stronger and Miles increases the dosages.

I think that Coy made the characters seem real by giving them the attributes of real-life people of their age, not like the stereotype of jocks and cheerleaders.  The story throughout the book seems like it could really happen,  Miles goes to parties, sees friends, and responds to peer pressure.  In real life, however, I don’t think the end would have been as extreme or as predictable.  I think the easy theme that anyone could figure out from reading the back of the book is don’t do steroids.  But a different theme I found is don’t give in to the temptations of drugs at all, because you almost never get away with it and it messes up your life.  I do wish that Crackback were a little more different from other sports books, because, as in many others, it was easy for me to predict the moment of truth or the ending.

Overall, on a rating of one through ten, I would give Crackback a nine, only because of how predictable the plot was.  But it was a great story anyway.  If you read and like Crackback, then I would recommend Box Out, also by John Coy, because it is similar, only about religion, not steroids.  I also recommend Raider’s Knight by Robert Lipsyte.  It deals with steroids, except the main character gives in much easier and tries stronger steroids,

Crackback is a quick read at 201 pages.  I suggest this novel for sports fans from sixth grade through high school, but non-sports fans will also like it and get into the story.

Patrick

Read more about this title on Amazon.com


Raiders Night, By Robert Lypsyte

May 29, 2009

raidersnightI am reviewing Raiders Night by Robert Lypsyte. It’s a sports book about a boy named Matt whose life centers around football. Outside of school, everyone treats the football team like kings, but the team isn’t perfect. Almost all of them do steroids and some of the less-skilled team members get beat up by the better ones.

The main character, Matt, is the captain of the team and when a new kid comes to the team and shows off, most of the other players hate him and brutally assault him in the locker room. Matt likes him but doesn’t tell the team that he has become friends with him and is hanging out with Chris outside of school.

This book is about choosing your own path and making moral choices along with all the typical teen problems like breaking up with girl friends, being part of a family, and being nice to a younger brother.

I rated this book a ten out of ten because it balanced sports and his life events but still had enough action to hold my interest.  Instead of thinking only about football like some other main characters in sports books, Matt thought like a normal teenage boy with other problems to deal with. Some of the action was not just sports action, but with guns and fist fights, like when they fight in the locker rooms.

This book is definitely for older readers, thirteen and up because there is a lot of swearing and violence.

Patrick

Publisher:  HarperTeen, 256 pages

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Gym Candy, By Carl Deuker

gymcandyGym Candy is about a boy named Mick who is struggling through high school and his athletics as his dad pressures him to be the best he can possibly be at football. Mick looks up to his dad and sees a former superstar NFL player, and feels that he has to be as good as him. Under this pressure, he feels he needs to take steroids. Coaches and players all suspect him of using them because his bench-pressing weight doubles in a very short time. While he is still trying to hide the steroids from everyone, he finds out that his dad was a fake and never played a NFL game in his life, instead choosing to skip practice and party. Mick is overwhelmed by everything that is happening in his life and Carl Deuker does a great job of wrapping it all up with a great cliffhanger ending that made me want to read the epilogue.

I totally rate this book a ten because of the cliff-hanger ending. Carl Deuker takes everything that you understand about the pages before and shoots it down because you’re only focused on the intense and surprising moment of truth. Then he just leaves you hanging there, wondering. This is the only book in the history of my reading where I read the epilogue. That’s how strong his ending is.

I thought Mick was just trying to please everyone but he didn’t know the right way to do it. By taking steroids, he is trying to please his dad, his coaches, his teammates and everyone else, but by doing them he just makes his life worse. Then he sees his life sinking like a ship. This is a great read. I hope you pick it up.

Eoin

Publisher:  Graphia, 320 pages

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Rebound, by Bob Krech

May 7, 2009

rebound1This is a book about a white kid named Raymond Widniewski who wants to make the all-black varsity basketball team. After he’s cut from the team two years in a row, a new coach shows up at Franklin High, and suddenly Ray makes the team after all. As his game progresses, he learns that race doesn’t matter— that it’s about being who you want to be— and about basketball.

I rated this book a ten out of ten because the description is excellent. I could see and feel everything, especially when Ray is playing basketball. I felt like I was experiencing everything right along with him. The main character development is also great, because the changes in Ray are both physical and mental: as his game improves, he also learns not to think about race but about who the other people around him really are.

This is a novel you can almost read in one day, because it’s so easy to get lost in the story. There are funny parts and suspenseful ones. I recommend Rebound to anyone who likes sports fiction: I think you would enjoy experiencing high school and basketball alongside Ray Widniewski.

Goran

Publisher:   Marshall Cavendish, 271 pages

Read more about this title at Amazon.com


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