The Blacktop series continues on the basketball courts of Oakland, California.
Several of her friends have been featured in this series, and now it’s Toni’s turn in the spotlight. She is black and “one tough-ass chick,” but she’s lonely and troubled, and her behavior threatens the whole team. She argues with the coach and is sometimes violent and sometimes too distracted to be a reliable teammate. She is not one to be played with, but that phrase can be taken two ways: opponents are scared to mess with her, and her own teammates can’t play with her when she’s out of control. Other teams don’t want to play her team anymore. Toni’s voice in the first-person narrative comes across as feisty at first, but it turns out she’s not a reliable narrator; she is too self-centered and defensive to listen to what others tell her. Toni has always loved drawing and the art of Rivera, Basquiat, and Kahlo, and readers might predict that art will be her salvation, but her story doesn’t go that way; if there is hope for Toni, it will be on the basketball court. In each volume, Alonge has successfully created well-rounded characters who team up for a multicultural portrait of basketball culture in Oakland; this is no exception.
A fine story for sports fans and anyone in the mood for a fast, character-driven read. (Fiction. 10-16)