From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–That white boy can ball….He don't play like no regular white boy. Sticky, 17, has spent his life being abused by pimps living with his prostitute mother, bouncing from one foster home to another, and living on the street between failed placements. But he's developed incredible hoop skills that have given him considerable social standing among his mostly black peers. And he gets a girlfriend named Anh-thu, who loves him and wants to help him reach his dreams. Sticky sees basketball as his way out of his dead-end life and is determined to make the right moves in the game to attain his goal. But he doesn't quite know how to make the right moves in his life, until a bad decision leads him to confront dark secrets. Jumping back and forth in time, this first novel has a unique narrative voice that mixes street lingo, basketball jargon, and trash talk to tell Sticky's sorry saga from a variety of viewpoints. Although readers who are not familiar with basketball may have trouble following some of the detailed game action, even they will be involved in the teen's at once depressing and inspiring story. Sticky is a true original, and de la Peña has skillfully brought him to life.–Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego
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Gr. 9-12. "I think God put me here to play ball," says 17-year-old Sticky. Shuffled between foster homes since childhood, the skinny, white teen devotes himself to playing basketball at Lincoln Rec, a gritty Los Angeles gym, where he has found a family among the serious players, mostly black men. In colloquial language filled with the words and rhythms of hip hop and the street, Pena's debut tells a riveting story about Sticky's struggle to secure a college basketball scholarship and deepen his relationship with his girlfriend. The disjointed narrative, which loops between past and present, may slow a few readers. Others, though, will see the nonlinear story as a reflection of Sticky's own internal journey as he faces violent childhood tragedies, his numbed emotions, and his sometimes-compulsive behavior (he repeats actions such as shoe-tying until they feel right). Teens will be strongly affected by the unforgettable, distinctly male voice; the thrilling, unusually detailed basketball action; and the questions about race, love, self-worth, and what it means to build a life without advantages. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved