After a promising young talent is shot dead on a neighborhood basketball court, the game takes on new meaning for a community in mourning.
Middle schooler Tony “Tone” Washington lost a close friend when a police officer opened fire on honor student Dante Jones, cutting the nationally ranked basketball player’s life short. The working-class Milwaukee neighborhood Tone and his family live in is no stranger to injustice, so in the aftermath, a rally, protest, and candlelight vigil are organized in tragically routine fashion. All the while, Tone’s focus is on making an elite local AAU basketball team, partially in commemoration of his late friend but also because—despite recognizing some of the disconcerting aspects of so much of your future being determined as a young teen—the sport takes up a significant space in the lives and dreams of the boys in his neighborhood. But the overlap of hoop dreams and police brutality ultimately makes for some uncomfortable and uneven narrative beats. As Tone narrates his interactions with Dante’s younger brother, Terry, the latter boy is obviously and justifiably angry and hurt because of his very personal loss, making Tone’s dogged focus on basketball strike a hollow note. Despite some compelling reflections on community and emotional health, sports clichés abound on the way to the national championship, and the impact of Dante’s death only three months earlier is not fully explored. Most characters are assumed Black.
A provocative shot but far from a slam-dunk.(Fiction. 12-16)