When his parents split up, Ben enters the choppy waters of his new life in Austin.
Ben’s workaholic dad heads to London while Ben moves with his mother from New York to her hometown. Introspective Ben retreats into himself, feeling pulled between his parents and indecisive about what he truly wants—to stay with his mother or to move in with his dad. Adult novelist Markovits’ (A Weekend in New York, 2018, etc.) debut book for children starts slowly as readers live through Ben’s uneventful summer days and he begins school. Though both his parents encourage Ben to express his opinions and speak up for himself, Ben finds himself lonely and the target of bullies. Readers may find themselves unengaged as the author methodically introduces story elements, but things pick up at the halfway point. Ben is coerced into managing the popular basketball team—coached by a teacher his mom is dating—while on the side, groundskeeper Sam teaches Ben basketball basics on an abandoned outdoor court. When Ben gets the chance to participate in a playoff game, his newly acquired skills are, refreshingly, not a magic fix to his problems. The story moves slowly, and not all the pieces introduced get a proper payoff, but Ben’s realistically rocky emotional journey ends on a satisfying note. The cast of characters is a primarily white one.
Not quite a slam dunk but an honest portrayal of a family in transition. (Fiction. 8-12)