A crisp tale of sports, smarts and what it means to be your own man or woman—or boy or girl, if you happen to be 13.
It seems to be an embarrassment of riches to be, say, one of the best basketball players in history and also write tightly entertaining novels for kids, but there you have Abdul-Jabbar. Surely Obstfeld added polish and framing, but this obviously is a work of someone intimate with sports and, by extension, how sports can serve as metaphor for a way of being in the world. Here, newly tall eighth-grader Theo Rollins is trying to find his way between the brainiacs and the basketball players. Along the way, he meets Rain—aka Crazy Girl—a sort of “girl with the dragon tattoo” minus the heaviest baggage. Characters, both friend and foe, feel real; there is talk of abandonment as well as serious comments about the skewed vision Americans have of Islam. The deepest running narrative pivots around sports, but the story has much to give. Theo’s cousin’s taxonomy of basketball players is broadly applicable: There are the happy-go-lucky, the self-conscious and “those who never want the game to be over, because each minute is like living on some planet where you got no problems....[They are], for that brief time, in a place where everything they thought or did mattered.”
Fearless, caring sports fiction. (Fiction. 8-12)