Summary: Jonas is nervous about moving to Seattle. He was an all-star with a shot at a college scholarship at his old school – will he be able to get on the team and garner the stats he needs to compete at his new one? Before school begins, he meets two important people who will change his life forever: His neighbor Levi, the son of a strict pastor with a simple manner and a good heart who is also a monster on the court and potential future teammate, and Ryan Hartwell, a local guy not much older than them who hangs out at the practice court with a lot of good advice on how to improve their game. Hartwell tells Jonas and Levi that they need to celebrate their swagger on the basketball court and in life – but the collision of these three people will lead to both incredible success and devastating, irreversible damage.
At first this book seems like a simple sports story about teammates and friends. As the pages turn, however, it becomes something deeper, more affecting and ultimately unforgettable. Jonas is a protagonist you will really root for, even as he makes questionable decisions in part of a chain of events that may leave you heartbroken. While it contains sensitive content, Deuker, a master of sports fiction, handles these serious situations without sensationalism and with careful grace. A challenging and rewarding tale that should be read by teens and parents/caregivers together.
Who will like this book?: People who like quick reads. Fans of sports stories that are about more than sports. Readers of intense books about friendship.
If you like this, try this: Boy21 by Matthew Quick. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Crackback by John Coy.
Summary: Nineteen year-old Hannah is not a ballerina: That is the word used for the stars of the company, the ones who dance the best roles and live in the spotlight. She is a member of the corps, one of the many bunheads who work for the prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, hoping to be noticed and promoted. Her life seems glamorous but it is hard work: Exhausting rehearsals, repetitive performances, keeping a strict eye on her weight, warding off injury and coping with intense rivalries with the other dancers, even those she considers friends. Hannah left home at 14 to study in the city: This life is the only one she’s ever known or even considered.
Hannah barely has time to step outside the theatre, let alone have any kind of social life. When she meets Jacob, a cute musician who goes to NYU she begins to see that there just might be more to life than dancing. But when you are so close to achieving the dream you have dedicated your life to, how can you begin to even imagine a different path? Author Sophie Flack, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, takes you backstage into a world very few ‘pedestrians’ get to see.
Who will like this book?: Budding dancers and other performing artists who are mature readers. Anyone who has ever dreamed of leaving home for school. Young athletes will find a lot to enjoy as well.
If you like this, read this: Various Positions by Martha Schabas. Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci. In the Wings: Behind the Scenes at the New York City Ballet by Kyle Froman. I Was a Dancer: A Memoir by Jacques D’Amboise.
Summary: In the dead of summer, Marcus is uprooted by his mother and moved to the small town of Kennesaw. The one saving grace of the move is that Marcus will have the chance to try-out for the championship winning Raiders, the local high school football team. With dreams of making it on the team, Marcus heads to the local park every day to practice his quarterbacking skills. One day during his solitary practice, Marcus meets an older man, Charlie, who behaves a bit bizarrely but is the best football player Marcus has ever seen. Charlie teaches him to embrace the “pop” that comes from a good tackle and how to pull off some amazing pranks.
It isn’t until school starts that Marcus learns his new practice friend is Charlie Popovich or “The King of Pop” as he was nicknamed during his career as an NFL linebacker. Unfortunately, by that time Marcus has already clashed heads with the starting quarterback of the Raiders and son of Charlie, Troy Popovich. Troy wants Marcus to stay away from his Dad, his team, and his ex-girlfriend Alyssa. Marcus fights for his position on the team and keeps practicing with Charlie. But Marcus has figured out there is a secret about Charlie that his family is desperate to hide. Marcus wants to help his friend, but is he willing to risk everything to do it?
Who will like this?: While football is prominently featured in this story, a love of the game or even an understanding of it, isn’t necessary for enjoyment of the story. It is the characters of Marcus and Charlie that are truly the center of this story. There are serious issues presented in this book, but Korman injects some humor into the story.
If you like this, try this: Anything else by Gordon Korman or Mike Lupica
Recommended by: Jen, Fairfield Woods Branch Teen Librarian
Summary: When Wyatt is 12, his house burns down. Leaving his uncaring mom and dad behind, he is taken in by his Uncle Spade, and begins his new life, moving from town to town, living with Spade’s various ‘ladyfriends.’ Wyatt, neglected and ignored, is gigantic – six feet tall and still growing. And when Spade realizes that Wyatt’s size and strength might be put to practical use as a fighter, things will never be the same. As he brawls with strangers in the backs of bars and in parking lots, Wyatt becomes more and more detached from the world around him, until an unplanned reunion forces him to change direction.
This is an intriguing story that is perfect for mature guys – especially those interested in MMA and fighting in general. It is gritty and intense, a sad story about a lost child never given the opportunities that most of us take for granted. You will be drawn into Wyatt’s world, hoping that he can find a way out before he loses himself completely in violence and desperation.
Who will like this book?: Guys looking for realistic fiction, or sports readers who are looking for something new. People who like to read stories written from a different perspective – in this case, a kid with little education but a lot of life experience.
If you like this, try this: The World Made Straight by Ron Rash. Fight fans should look at A Fighter’s Heart by Sam Sheridan or American Shaolin by Matthew Polley. These books, like Why I Fight, are recommended for mature readers.
Summary: Chris Crutcher is one of those unique writers who manages to get his work challenged almost as often as he receives literary awards and lands on best book lists. Whale Talk is perhaps one of his most controversial and one of his best. It’s told from the point of view of T.J. Jones, a black, Japanese, white high school senior born to a hippie, drug-using mom and adopted as a toddler by a loving white couple. While T.J. may be the narrator, this is not just his story. It’s also the story of a group of misfit teens who are inspired to achieve something of their own, a little mixed race girl struggling against a brutal home life, a good man who spends every day trying to make up for a 20+ year old horrible accident, and the racism and prejudice that tie their lives together.
Who will like this book: While the basic plot of this story centers around T.J. assembling and leading a rag-tag swim team populated with the biggest school misfits, this isn’t just a book for sports fiction fans. This book delves into topics of child abuse, racism, and bullying with a raw honesty that is heartbreaking at times.
If you like this, try this:Any other books by Chris Crutcher, Speakby Laurie Halse Anderson, Tangerine by Edward Bloor
Summary: The game of football changed forever on November 18, 1985. As millions watched on Monday Night Football, Joe Theisman was sacked by Lawrence Taylor, and suffered a career-ending leg fracture. Taylor hit Theisman from the blind side; the quarterback never saw it coming. As a result, team owners and coaches scrambled to find a way to protect the quarterback’s blind side and the position of left tackle was transformed. Once just another interchangeable big man on the line, he is now often the highest paid player on the team. Good left tackles possess a freakish combination of speed and size, and they are very hard to find.
Michael Oher was born to a drug-addicted mother in Memphis. He doesn’t know his father, or even his own birthday. Growing up on the streets, he faced a very difficult future. But opportunities for an education and a career in the NFL all emerge, because at 6’6” with the speed of a basketball player, Oher was born to play left tackle. The Blind Side is more than just a riveting sports book. It makes you wonder: If Lawrence Taylor hadn’t landed that monster hit, would Micheal Oher be starting his senior season at Ole Miss today?
Who will like this book?: Football fans. People who like to read stories about life on the streets and kids who triumph over difficult odds.
If you like this, try this:Moneyball, also by Michael Lewis. Game by Walter Dean Myers.
Title:Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn
Summary: Sharon LaForge moves on the basketball court with fluidity and grace driven by an intuitive understanding of the game. She is a gifted athlete and will lead her school team to a state championship, but no college recruiter will ever show an interest in her. No offer of scholarship will ever be sent to Sharon because, as most people on her reservation believe, schools don’t like to take a chance that their athletic investment may not adjust to life off the reservation.
Author Larry Colton went to Crow Agency searching for an answer as to why young Native American athletes, who dominate the basketball court in high school, leave school without a single college offer. What he found was Sharon LaForge. In telling Sharon’s story, Colton tells the story of her fellow teammates, her family, her Indian community, and his own experiences with the people inside that community.
Who will like this book?: Fans of sports books and those interested in Native American life on a reservation. Don’t be confused though, this isn’t a dry anthropological study of culture, but rather a very personal look into a young woman’s life, the choices she makes, and her community.
If you like this, try this:In These Girls, Hope is Muscleby Madeleine Blias and Friday Night Lights: a Town, a Team, and a Dreamby H.G. Bissinger
Recommended by:Jen, Fairfield Woods Teen Librarian