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Box Out Hardcover – June 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 530L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (June 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439870321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439870320
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,932,441 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*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

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on May 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Liam Bergstrom is one lucky sophomore. The varsity coach is bringing him up from JV to rebound for the varsity. Another player's bad luck (an injury) has become good luck for Liam.

When he starts practicing with the varsity, he gives it everything he has. He wants to make his mark on the team because of his ability, not just because of his height. The coach seems impressed, and Liam spends a fair amount of time off the bench and right in the middle of the action.

Unfortunately, there is one thing about the varsity team that kind of surprises Liam, and to be honest, disappoints him.

Before each game and at half-time, the team is required to pray. Coach asks a player to lead the team in prayer, and even though Liam is a practicing Catholic who believes in God and prayer, he feels uncomfortable. In addition to the game prayers, Liam discovers that the team members are expected to attend the HAF (Horizon Athletic Fellowship) meetings as well.

When Liam begins to question the legality of praying at school, several of the players tell him it's just the cost of being part of the team. Liam doesn't like the fact that not everyone on the team may follow Christian beliefs, and he feels hypocritical when he just pretends to participate. When he finally decides to ask the coach about the situation, he gets an answer he later learns was a lie. Having his coach lie to him and then expect him to do something as personal as pray, makes Liam take the issue to the next level.

Bringing the question of separation of church and state to the attention of people beyond the team stirs up things with his teammates and even the school principal. Liam finds out that asking questions and then standing up for what you believe in is not always the easiest road to take.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JL Librarian on August 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Tough issues abound in teenage life, and this book is filled with insightful, challenging situations to which teenagers can relate. John Coy's research into the teenage experience regarding sports, coaches, relationships, and decisions is obvious in the characters and plot of the novel.

Liam Bergstrom's life revolves around the basketball court, and he embraces the opportunity to play varsity ball after a teammate's injury. Coach Kloss tells him, "We're a tight team. If you ever have anything you need to talk about, come on down. My door is open." Liam is ecstatic! On his first big game day, he cannot believe he is wearing a Horizon High School varsity uniform. But when Coach comes into the locker room for the pre-game talk, Liam learns the one big difference between Varsity and JV: prayer. Though raised in the Catholic faith, Liam is not so sure the inclusion of prayer should be part of high school athletics.

Something else troubles Liam about Coach's behavior. Supposedly a believer in team basketball, the man clearly has favorites and disapproves of the style and attitude of the only black player on the team, Darius. When Darius quits, Coach and the teammates act like he was never really a team player, yet others do not receive similar treatment. Darius, however, maintains that Coach does not really respect the game.

When Coach and his teammates encourage (even expect?) him to attend weekly before-school Horizon Athletic Fellowship meetings, where prayer and expression of one's faith are foremost on the agenda, Liam becomes even more uncomfortable in his new role. The members wear HWJC bracelets (How Would Jesus Compete?), and some hypocritical players communicate a totally different opinion in front of other than they express to individuals.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Coy's BOX OUT, the perfect antidote for a sports-loving, reading-resistant middle schooler, will also find an audience among those who love to read and those of any age. In simple language, Coy tackles complex issues such as the separation of church and state. Liam Bergstrom, a 17-year-old hoops player who is delighted when he is promoted from JV to Varsity, is troubled immediately when he discovers the Varsity coach leads his team in Christian prayer before every game. Coach Kloss also has religious meetings at his house for the high school athletes.

What makes the novel work is the inner conflict Liam goes through as he tries to sort out why this troubles him so. His mother is gung-ho against the coach, while his more conservative father (a teacher in the same school system) recommends caution. Meantime, Liam meets pressure from his friends and fellow athletes as well -- his friends oppose his making a stink and advise him to just go along with it so he can get his minutes on court. When he decides to report the practice to a national group and a letter is sent to the principal, all purgatory breaks loose.

Both boys and girls should enjoy this ethical dilemma with a basketball backdrop, as it features not only the boys' team but the champion-caliber girls' team as well. By the end of the book, lines have been drawn and sides have been taken. Verbal harrassment escalates to physical violence and Liam learns that taking ethical stands can come at great cost. Readers will enjoy not only the plot, but the characterization as Liam stands on principle and suffers the consequences. Like Coy's earlier work, CRACKBACK, I recommend this book highly to middle readers.
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More About the Author

Hi, I'm the author of the picture books Night Driving, Strong to the Hoop, Vroomaloom Zoom, Two Old Potatoes and Me, and Around the World. Strong to the Hoop is also available in Spanish as Directo Al Aro and Two Old Potatoes and Me is available in Chinese.

I am a member of the NBA Reading All-Star Team as part of the Read to Achieve program. Crackback, my first young adult novel, is about high school football and my second, Box Out, is about high school basketball.

All four books in the 4 for 4 middle-grade series are now available: Top of the Order, Eyes on the Goal, Love of the Game, and Take Your Best Shot. The books follow four friends who love sports as they navigate the changes between elementary school and middle school with plenty of surprises.

I am currently working on a new YA novel and several picture books. I live in Minneapolis and visit schools nationally and internationally.

Check out for more information, and yes, it's fine to use the material for author studies.

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