The on-court action is fast and furious in Kevin Waltman's (Nowhere Fast) launch to a planned four-book series, which will especially appeal to basketball fans.
The author portrays adeptly a small town in Indiana obsessed with hoops, where coaches can influence generations of families and patterns can be hard to break. African American narrator Derrick Bowen ("D-Bow") may be only 6'3" (that's right, only) and a freshman at Marion East, but he knows the moves. Starter Nick Starks sees 15-year-old D-Bow as a threat and would rather have the team lose than pass to the newcomer and risk his first-string status. The main tension of the novel grows out of an opportunity D-Bow gets to move from his public school high school, where he's gradually building the trust of his coaches, to upscale Hamilton Academy, in another county and ranked #1. If he goes, his unemployed father has been promised a job. A protracted subplot about D-Bow's Uncle Kid and his suspicious interest in his nephew moving to Hamilton unfolds somewhat awkwardly, but the relationships between D-Bow and his brother and parents, as well as with his best friend, Wes--together with the on-court scenes--more than carry the novel.
Credible characterizations, catchy dialogue ("At the end of the day, the ring is the thing," D-Bow thinks, at the prospect of winning a championship) and growing suspense as to which school D-Bow will choose will hold readers' attention. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness