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Playing Without the Ball [Kindle Edition]

Rich Wallace
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $5.99
Sold by: Random House LLC

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"Ask the Dark"
Gripping and powerful, this masterful debut novel comes to vivid life through the unique voice of a hero as unlikely as he is unforgettable. Hardcover | Kindle

Book Description

Some might think Jay was cheated. By his mother, who walked out when he was 9. By his dad, who took a job a couple thousand miles away and let him stay above a bar in a one-room apartment. By the basketball coach, who saw his talent but chose youth over determination. And even Jay’s not sure whether this last year of high school in the small town of Sturbridge, Pennsylvania, will add up to anything. But just when senior year seems a waste–kissing the wrong girls, offending the right ones, playing basketball on a church league with other “rejects”–life begins to click again. The church league gives him some of the best basketball he’s ever played, and the right girl gives him a second chance. Jay may not know what he wants next out of life, but he’s beginning to get a clue about how to play the game.

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

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 for the story of a 17-year-old basketball player," wrote PW in a starred review. Ages 14-up. (Aug.)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 281 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Laurel Leaf (August 18, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,360,368 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Win in Sturbridge November 21, 2000
Jay McLeod is growing up fast. When his father moves to California, Jay stays behind in Sturbridge, PA, to play his senior year of high school basketball. Jay's mother had moved out long before, so this leaves Jay on his own. He lives in an apartment over the cafe where he works as a cook. When he fails to make the basketball team, he joins a Methodist youth group so he can play on their team in the YMCA league.
The author skillfully captures the action on the basketball court. Readers who enjoyed his "Wrestling Sturbridge" will enjoy this as well. This book, however, cannot be put in the hands of as broad an audience because of Jay's sexual activity. There is no graphic description and the author does include a couple of redeeming points: Jay practices safe sex, and his love-live hits a snag when a college-girl he has his eye on learns of his casual sexual relationship with another girl.
I recommend this book for 10th grade and up.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too-Good Character February 12, 2007
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Basketball isn't a big sport in the town of Sturbridge--wrestling is what they are known for. But for Jay, basketball is the only sport. Jay is a high school student living on his own. His mother left him and his father when Jay was only a child, and his father raised him alone ever since then. But now his father has decided to travel across the country and settle in California. He thinks Jay should come, too, but Jay wants a chance to stay and play basketball for his high school's team. He starts a job working as a cook in a bar on nights and weekend, and he lives for free in a couple of rooms above the bar.

Living alone doesn't bother Jay much. He focuses on basketball all the time. He wakes up early to play pickup games down at the gym. He plays in the afternoons and the evenings and every other time he can find. Basketball is the focus of his life, and he can't wait for basketball season to start at school. Plus, there are a handful of girls he is interested in who keep him on his toes--Spit, the singer from the band that plays at the bar; Julie, a girl who comes to the bar to see him; and Dana, a girl he plays against in the morning basketball league.

This is an interesting year for Jay, regardless of what happens with the girls and with the team.

The story is good, with plenty of varied and vivid characters. Jay himself, though, was very hard to believe. He is a high school student living all alone, surrounded by drugs and alcohol, and he never gets into any trouble. I simply couldn't buy that as reality.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Time runs out on Rich Wallace July 28, 2002
Jay McLeod is a senior in the town of Sturbridge. His mother took off when he was nine leaving him in the care of his father. Bored with the single parent routine, Dad decides to go to California in search of a new life. 17 year old Jay stays behind with hopes of making the basketball team. Dad makes an arrangement with friend and local bar owner, Shorty, to allow Jay to live in an room above the bar and work as a cook on the weekends. The book details Jay's final year of high school as he faces the many trials and tribulations of a not-so-typical 17 year old, on his own.
Although the book holds the readers interest, the ending was a disappointment. Rich Wallace does a great job developing the characters, yet at the end, the reader is left hanging. I think the book would have enormous appeal to young male athletes because of the play-by-play descriptions of basketball games. The female characters in the book are interesting, yet I think the average teenage girl would become bored with all of the detail on the inner-workings of basketball. Overall, the book is easy to read. The format-the book is written in four quarters-is very "reader-friendly". I fear many teens would be disappointed when they reach the end of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love and Basketball August 29, 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book was quite an interesting story about love and basketball, not necessarily in that order. Jay, the main character, is a 17 year-old that was abandoned by his parents. His mother left him, when he was 9 and his father left him in Sturbridge, Pennsylvania to move to California, during Jay's last year of high school. His father left him under the "eye" of a bar owner named Shorty. Jay lives above the bar and he is employed at the bar, as a cook.

It is Jay's desire to play for the high school basketball team. He tries out for the team, and even makes it to the 3rd day, but he gets cut from the team. He is disappointed about this, but he gets up the next day to go play at the YMCA. He decides to try-out for the church league. He makes the team and they go all the way to the Championship. During his run with the church league, he meets a girl named Kylie. On the other hand, his friend, Sarita (Spit), is jealous. Nevertheless, Jay and Kylie fall in love.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing without the Ball February 13, 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Have you ever wondered about what your friends mean when they say girls come into play in their life? Jay in the book " playing without the ball" is faced with the same type of problem as what your friends mean. This book has that same conflict but with girls and basketball. This was the greatest book I have ever read, not just because basketballs my favorite sport but because it dragged me right into the book and I could not put it down. I used to hate reading, since this book I found out how exciting it can be. This book had a lot of details in it. Jay had played basketball for a church team in league at the Y. His team then makes it to the championship game as they play the toughest team in the league. This book has a great deal of meaning, and I just loved it!
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More About the Author

Rich Wallace is an award-winning author of many novels for kids and teenagers. Recent work includes the Kickers series of soccer novels for kids in grades 2-4; the middle-grade historical novel War and Watermelon, set in the summer of Woodstock; and Sports Camp, about an 11-year-old boy away at camp for the first time. Novels for teenagers including Wrestling Sturbridge, Playing Without the Ball, and Perpetual Check, among others. He is also the author of The Timbertoes feature in Highlights magazine. Visit his web site at


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