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SWAGGER by Carl Deuker

SWAGGER

By Carl Deuker

Age Range: 12 - 18

Pub Date: Nov. 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-547-97459-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

After his dad loses his job, basketball point guard Jonas Dolan starts over with a new team.

To earn a college basketball scholarship, Jonas needs to play well and improve his grades. Both tasks become trickier, however, when the family moves to Seattle from Redwood City, Calif. His new coach, Knecht, plays old-school, by-the-book basketball and barely lets Jonas on the court. Jonas thinks he has a better shot when the charismatic new assistant coach, Hartwell, takes over the team. Despite his charm, Hartwell’s judgment starts to seem questionable when he invites the team to a party at his apartment where he serves alcohol and when he helps Jonas cheat on a chemistry test. His sinister side isn’t revealed in full, however, until Jonas’ friend Levi discloses that Hartwell has repeatedly sexually assaulted him. Jonas’ friendship with Levi, a sensitive, generous, loyal, devout Christian from Arkansas, gives the novel a strong, emotional center. The basketball action is well-drawn, and Jonas’ frustration at Knecht’s style of play is palpable. More attention could have been given, however, to the complexities of deciding how to respond to a friend who has been sexually assaulted and doesn’t want to tell anyone.

A largely well-executed exploration of team spirit, friendship and the devastating impact of untrustworthy adults. (Fiction. 12-18)