In this slim, fast-reading series opener, readers meet the ambitious co-ed Alton Heights basketball team as they challenge the privileged kids from a nearby prep school to a showdown.
Best friends Cam, Tyler, and Markus have been waiting for Center Park Elementary’s basketball season to start for what seems to be an eternity—so they are deflated by the news that the program has been cut. Mrs. Avery intervenes, creating space for the three boys to practice in the school’s dusty gym after they get their work done. The boys practice, practice, and practice some more up until they run into the Golden Roots Prep team in the park. They challenge Golden Roots Prep to a game, but there’s only one problem: A basketball team is five players, and the boys only have three. Where will they find two more competent players? There’s Jasmine and Brianna, who are pretty good…but they are girls. Can they team up to defend the honor of their home, the Alton Heights housing complex, against the rich kids with resources? The story comes from a good place, but it doesn’t devote enough warm-up time to developing whole, authentic characters. Racially coded names, a reference to Cam’s braids, and a stylized depiction of their hands done in black ink will likely have readers inferring that the Alton Heights kids are black, but class issues share space with basketball as dominant themes.
Here’s hoping a fun basketball series develops in its later installments. (Fiction. 7-11)