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PLAYERS by Joyce Sweeney

PLAYERS

By Joyce Sweeney

Age Range: 12 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 1-890817-54-6

Sports are a metaphor for life in Sweeney’s outing (Spirit Window, 1998, etc.) where naïveté and trust meet up with unbridled ambition. Expectations are high for Corey’s basketball team to win the title, but they need one more player in their starting line-up. Noah is new, from Georgia and suspected of racism by the black players. He’s got such a good outside shot that Corey swings the whole team—except best friend Luke—into voting him in. High-school sports throughout the country vary somewhat, but few coaches would be so willing to pass such control to players, and this coach is one smart cookie. Gulp that implausibility and the access players have at half-time to kids not on the team and you’re off. There’s just enough play-by-play basketball to satisfy sports enthusiasts, but the emphasis is on Corey’s education via the dirty work Noah is willing to dish out to not only play, but also to play first string and his preferred position, center. Corey has two sisters, one younger, vulnerable, and wise beyond her years, the other shortly to be married, and totally self-centered, but not as Machiavellian as Noah. The parents, as in most YA novels, are mostly invisible, and the romantic entanglements serve to complicate the friction surrounding who plays and who doesn’t, but never demand the spotlight. Characters are appealing and less one-dimensional than in typical sports fare. Everything happens quickly and the message is valuable, if occasionally less than subtle. Kids who have played on teams will enjoy exploring the complexities of team dynamics, and basketball enthusiasts will simply lap this one up. (Fiction. 12-14)