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on March 7, 2012
Excellent book and very exciting read Mr. Volponi. The story works on so many levels that anyone should feel at home in between its pages. It's not only a book for young adults, as I, an older battle scarred warrior, gained much pleasure and insight from the story.

All the excitement of watching a classic basketball tournament game is injected into this story. You'll catch yourself cheering for or against a team or player as if you've placed a bet down in Vegas. Though the primary focus is on four of the young players and their challenges on and off the basketball court, it's the inspiring people who've touched their lives that make this story go. If it were a movie the Oscar for supporting actor would be split between the two head coaches.

The pace of the story is not unlike a basketball game full of intense drama; up tempo fast breaks, slowed down game planning, exciting offense, pressuring defense and a heart pounding climax. Very creative idea using the historic Trojans vs Spartans battle as a theme for the competitors and their showdown. While one team must win and the other has their tournament bubble burst, the life lessons learned from a team experience is worth more than any trophy. Who, besides those playing the game, knew that basketball is a game of communication? Author Paul Volponi does!

I suppose the release date of this book was meant to coincide with the college March Madness schedule. It sure works for me as I will be tuned in to hopefully see yet another Cinderella team make a run at the championship.

5+ Stars

"I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed." Michael Jordan
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on August 14, 2013
"Live Radio Broadcast of the Game.
There are three broadcasters, a play by play man, a color commentator, and sideline reporter", Laura also known as Book Snob.

Note: The book review of Final Four will be written in a similar format to parts of the book.

Color Commentator: Ladies and Gentlemen, this is it, the final four, the big game between Michigan State Spartans and underdog, Troy University Trojans. Who will win remains to be seen, but both sides are anxious to move up to the championship game. "The last time the Spartans and the Trojans met for stakes this high was in the Trojan War of Greek Mythology, when the Spartans left a huge horse outside the gates of Troy." pg. 6. I wonder, will the Trojans rewrite history here tonight?

Side line reporter: There are 4 main players being represented in tonight's game, I mean book.

Malcolm is the leading scorer for the Spartans as a freshman and is ready to make his move into the NBA. He is a little cocky and self-serving but maybe he has earned it. He recently lost his sister in a drive-by shooting and you can see her image tattooed on his arm.

Michael Jordan also plays for the Spartans and you guessed it, was named after the famed NBA star Michael Jordan. Michael is a junior benchwarmer thrown into the game. He is roommates with Malcolm and lives under the shadow of his name.

Roko Bacic AKA Red Bull is a junior playing for Troy. He is a native Croatian who has lived in the states since his senior year of high school. His uncle taught him to play basketball on the streets of Croatia and now he is living his dream, playing college basketball. His parents are very proud of him. His uncle was killed by the Croatian mob.

Crispin Rice: A senior who plays for the Trojans is in love with a girl named Hope and she becomes known as his good luck charm and is nicknamed, Hope of Troy. He proposed to her in front of live television about 6 weeks earlier. I wonder how things are going with this young couple. Crispin needs to remain focused here today as the two teams head into battle.

Play by Play man: I can't believe it folks, we are heading in to overtime tonight. These teams are tightly matched and the players all deserve to come out on top. You will have to read the book to find out what team wins the game.

Volponi, has written a book that takes place entirely during one basketball game. Reading the Final Four is like having front row seats during a competitive game, where you know the key players first hand, their backgrounds, hopes, dreams and even failures. The Final Four is full of court action, interviews, journal entries and play by play commentary.

Side Line Reporter:
I am not a big basketball fan so I am not sure I am qualified to report on the game, but the book was awesome for someone who doesn't know much about basketball. For people who play the game, I can only imagine that they would love a book like this. Final Four is fast paced, full of street courts and college ball, living a tough life and then living a dream. Volponi doesn't shy away from some of the issues related to college ball like the fact that lots and lots of people are making money off the games, yet the players play for free and the aren't allowed to take any gifts or sell any of their tickets for games. It is interesting to look at these issues and more, through the eyes of the players in The Final Four.

Color Commentator: Like basketball? Got Game? Get yourself to The Final Four.
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on March 20, 2012
THE FINAL FOUR IS A SLAM DUNK! You don't have to know anything about basketball to get hooked.

For those who follow me on Twitter and Goodreads, it's no secret that I am a huge fan of Paul Volponi's. I became intrigued by his work when RESPONSE received the Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Honor in 2010. After that, I devoured his novels and dubbed Paul the King of Urban YA Fiction.

THE FINAL FOUR is one of Paul's finest novels. Volponi writes about March Madness, the time when the best college basketball teams play for the NCAA Championship. It's huge money, huge exposer, huge pressure. Volponi tells the story of two teams battling in the Final Four through the eyes of four players. Interspersed are newspaper and TV interviews, commentary. One of the characters is Michael Jordan-imagine what it must be like to love basketball, be named after one of the best players to ever play in the NBA, and always having to deal with being compared to your namesake: THE Michael Jordan. Another character is Malcolm McBride, a young man who'a nickname is "One and Done" because he's only playing one year of college ball until he's eligible to enter the NBA draft. Malcolm's outlook on life has definitely been shaped by poverty and the horrible experiences that have plagued his life. Crispin Rice is a character I really enjoyed, a leader for sure. But his life isn't as storybook as the media makes it out to be. My favorite character is Roco Bacic who survived some horrific experiences in Croatia to come to the US and fulfill his dream of playing basketball. Some of his story is told through a personal journal that captures unforgettable moments of terror.
The reader becomes immersed in the players' lives on and off the basketball court. The novel is rife with raw emotion, tragedy, and triumph.
There were several passages where I shook my head in awe. Even if you rarely on never read realistic fiction, THE FINAL FOUR should be your first. Get swept away in March Madness.
I highly recommend this novel for young men - seventh grade and up - who are reluctant readers. THE FINAL FOUR may very well be just the novel to inspire a love for reading.
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on April 3, 2014
The book takes on a few important issues in college sports, though they are left unresolved.
- Team vs. individual
- School making big money of their student athletes
- Athletes using their position in the sports world as a springboard to the next level without regard for the opportunity for an education.

On the whole a good read, but there were a few distracting features for me:
- The Spartan coach is a really thinly disguised Tom Izzo (current MSU Basketball coach) in the sense that he loses his voice during the tournament as Izzo always does, and shoot free throws at practice also as Izzo is famous for doing...but the book coach has none of the values of the real Izzo. It would have been cleaner just to take out the Izzo-isms and create an entirely new coach.
- On the whole the characters seemed quite flat, without substance except for the Trojan point guard. Even Crispin (the Troy Center), and his interactions with his fiancee are very stereotyped and don't come off with any realism. This is a pity because the game served as a framing for flashbacks into the lives of the players on the court and those flashbacks are great opportunities to develop and plumb the depths of the characters, an opportunity that is lost
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on July 29, 2014
this book is flat out incredible i have never read a book with so much emotion and suspense a great read certiantly better than other cheap basketball novels volponi has not let me down his other bball books are great including "rucker park setup" and "black and white"
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on May 4, 2014
I would strongly recommend reading this novel. Not only is this book critically acclaimed and received numerous awards, but it’s an easy, fun read. The fun began from when I first picked up The Final Four off the shelves. The cover art tells all about the journey you are about to embark on. Four men all reaching for one basketball tells the reader that this is a story of ambition, competition, and desire. The story follows a few different characters that play on different teams. Of the most noteworthy are the main characters Malcolm “One and Done” McBride, whom plays for the Michigan State Spartans but is set on leaving college basketball to enter the NBA draft after only one year, and Roko Bacic, a Croatian whom leaves his home country to play ball in Troy, Alabama for the Trojans. Malcolm and Roko have two very different backgrounds but are alike in that they are complicated. McBride lived in the Detroit housing projects before coming to Michigan State, but not only has he had to deal with poverty but his sister was murdered in a drive by shooting when he was in his teens. Roko lived in Croatia during the Serbia/Croatia conflicts. His Uncle, whom he was very close with, was murdered in a car bomb during the conflicts. How each character deals with their backgrounds separates them, while Malcolm comes off as someone who you would probably dislike because he runs his mouth, Roko is the exact opposite. Roko is one of the most unselfish players in the league while
Malcolm is famously known for hogging the ball. This story also follows the struggles player Michael Jordan, a teammate of Malcolm that constantly has to prove himself because he shares the name with the most talented basketball player ever. Also, a teammate of Roko, Crispin Rice. Rice is known for his proposal to his Girlfriend, Hope, after making a game winning shot during the regular season. All the players ride a roller coaster of emotions throughout the novel. The author Paul Volponi structures the story by giving a play-by-play description of the heated game between Michigan State and the underdog Trojans, but then just when you are on the edge of your chair lusting after the next shot Volponi switches the story back to a few weeks before the game to divulge on the character backgrounds. Give this book a chance! Give the characters a chance as well, because just when you think you have them figured out you discover they have deeper layers to them just as a freshly picked onion would have. On that note peel this book open like an onion, and you might just find yourself getting teared up.
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on November 14, 2013
This book was fantastic; I didn't want to put it down and didn't want it to end either. The main characters came to life right before your eyes. The struggles of Bacic and McBride served as a constant parallel to their roles in this game. This story would make a great movie. I would proofread the script if the opportunity presented itself.
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on May 2, 2013
Paul Volponi got me hooked on The Final Four from the second my eyes met the first page. Volponi made it clear what was going on at all times. It was very easy to read and understand, as I never found myself having to reread out of confusion. The reader does not need any prior knowledge in order to have a clear understand as to what was going on in The Final Four. I read this book while on a plane. Throughout the book, the author paints the image of everything incredibly well, whether it be the basketball game itself, the streets of Detroit, dorms at Michigan State, Croatia, or Crispin Rice and his delivery job. While Volponi was using my mind as the easel for his artistic work, I totally forgot about the boredom of being on a plane because of how well he described the story, though there were no unrealistic characters as heroes. The plot moved along quickly while forcing me to turn the page to find out about the lives of Malcolm McBride, Michael Jordan, Roko Bacic, and Crispin Rice. Another thing that Paul Volponi did well in The Final Four is background of each character's lives. Each character comes from a very believable background that reflects the reality of many lives in college basketball today. None of the characters come from nor have utopian lives. One thing that was confusing only at the very beginning of the book, is that the story jumps around from each of the four main characters lives and the basketball game they are playing. After some reading, I realized that each chapter is a story of each character, piecing together their past. The basketball game being played by Michigan State University and Troy University is included in each phase of The Final Four. As a whole, though, the story makes sense and looking back on it, there was no real confusion and was consistent throughout the duration of the novel. The author also does a wonderful job of taking no particular side in any controversial issues like gang/mafia violence and those are both viewed as wrong because the lives of people close to two characters are taken due to those. Throughout the story, Malcolm McBride is very cocky and makes it clear that he will be going to the NBA after his freshman year at Michigan State. He says that the school is stealing the money he makes for the university and he does not get any of it. He is also mad that he has to wait another year until he receivers his big paycheck from the NBA. The Final Four is definitely geared towards a male audience because, in the end, it is about basketball, but I recommend it to everyone because it is a great, interesting work of literature.
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on August 27, 2013
I dreaded reading the book The Final Four for reasons of laziness. However, once I finally picked it up it was such a quick and enjoyable read. Volponi's basketball and real world experiences combined to form a beautiful story. Although a work of fiction, his integration of basketball history and other real life events at times made me think there really was a Coach Kennedy and his underdog team. Would recommend thus book to both sports and non-sports fans alike.
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on July 3, 2013
Great book with a lot of emotion packed into this book. Final four follows four characters during the final minutes of the semi-final game of the NCAA final four game in New Orleans. With flashbacks, you get to know the heart and mind of two characters from each team really well. Beautifully written - this will appeal to a wide variety of readers.
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