There are dozens of detailed, play-by-play descriptions of basketball games in Playing Without the Ball
--good news for basketball fans; perhaps bad news for the less enthralled. Rich Wallace, author of Wrestling Sturbridge
, is a sportswriter and coach, and it shows. He writes with vigor and authority about the inner workings of athletic competition and the progress of a game but in this book, fails to connect those elements with the plot and convince us that the outcome matters. But never mind. For some teens, as one of his characters says, "There's never enough basketball."
Jay McLeod is "the only 17-year-old around who's living alone"--in an apartment over a bar while he finishes his senior year of high school. His mom left when he was nine, and his dad opted out early last year to live his own life, leaving his almost-grown son in the casual care of the bar owner. In the evenings Jay has a job downstairs in the kitchen, frying up wings and egg rolls while other people are partying in the next room. But it's not too bad. Jay has time for lots of basketball for its own sake, and the freedom to check out girls and see where that leads.
Rich Wallace has a keen ear for the nuances of young sexual encounters, and his female characters are comfortable with themselves in their easy athleticism--both elements score points in a story that nevertheless bounces off the rim. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell
From Publishers Weekly
Demonstrating once again his gift for combining taut sports action with understated but convincing characterization, Wallace returns to the same small Pennsylvania town from Wrestling Sturbridge and Shots on Goal. Seventeen-year-old Jay McLeod's mother left when he was nine, and his father has just moved to Los Angeles. Jay decides to stay behind until June in order to play varsity basketball, knowing that as a "borderline" player, it may be his last. He's shocked when the coach cuts him from the team, but isn't quite ready to leave Sturbridge just yet. Jay knows plenty of reasons to stay: his friend Spit, a gifted punk-rock singer with even more family baggage than Jay; the new church basketball league, whose players may not be as accomplished as the school team's but are just as committed and competitive; and the chance to figure out just where he might be headed. Wallace's detailed play-by-play descriptions deftly capture the rush felt by players deep in a game, anywhere and at any level; with equal skill, the author limns the resilient Jay and his realistically awkward and tentative forays into romance. A novel rebounding with pleasures for YA readers of all types. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.