From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—When high school sophomore Liam is called up to play varsity basketball, he finds the team in some distress. Darius, the only black member and the leading offensive player, quits during the half-time of Liam's first game, feeling dissed by the coach. Liam then attends an invitation-only Athletic Fellowship meeting at a teammate's house, where he is manipulated into joining in the reading of a "Champion's Prayer," strengthening his doubts about the amount and kind of prayer that the coach directs at every pregame and half-time. The teen is secure in his Catholic faith, but fears he'll lose playing time, at least, if he rocks the coach's boat. Using the Internet to investigate and then press the separation of church and state, he indeed suffers the wrath of his coach, administration, and former teammates, so that he, too, quits the team. He and Darius are recruited to toughen up the varsity girls' team as they make their run at State. Coached by the art teacher who runs practices akin to a yoga workout and assigns poetry as well as scrimmages is a welcome change for Liam, who makes serious strides both on and off the court. The message that one must choose one's own road is certainly worthy, and the combination of basketball action, Liam's thoughtful responses to off-court issues, and the involvement—and final game—between the boys and girls will appeal to many hoops fans.—Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA
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*Starred Review* The author of Crackback (2005) crafts an equally perceptive, triumphant tale—this one centered on a high-school hoops player searching for, and finding, his own road. Liam is dazzled at first by his unexpected elevation to the varsity team, but the shine wears off quickly once he discovers that the coach is leading prayer sessions before each practice and game. Then he sees Darius, who is a star player but the team’s only African American, maneuvered into quitting. Eventually Liam follow suit, after gathering his nerve to contact a watchdog organization. What follows is an eye-opening lesson in what team spirit is really all about. More a decent, average, level-headed kid than an introspective sort or a crusader, Liam struggles with the urge to conform and ultimately finds realistic ways to rebound from self-doubt as well as serious peer and adult pressure. Plainly well acquainted with teenagers as well as b-ball play and lingo, Coy adds subplots and supporting characters to give Liam’s life dimension, but he weaves in plenty of breathlessly compelling game action too. Grades 7-9. --John Peters