Twelve-year-old Jayson, a tough kid from the poor part of Moreland, North Carolina, is sent across town to live with foster parents, where he’ll play basketball for a rival team.
Jayson's mom's boyfriend took off a few days after Jayson's mom died. Ever since, Jayson has been guiltily stealing bread and peanut butter from corner stores. When Jayson is caught trying to steal sneakers to replace his worn, too-small pair, he is matched with the Lawtons, a pair of kind, wealthy, and patient foster parents, who enroll him in a private school, Belmont Country Day. Jayson is a notoriously talented point guard, and basketball has always been his emotional outlet, but now his anger bubbles out on the court as well as in his new home. Jayson's progression from resentment of his new life to acceptance follows a predictable path, as does his basketball season, which includes two tense games against his old team. Nevertheless, the dynamics here are handled with subtlety and depth, particularly Jayson's shame at being labeled a thief. Jayson's friendship with Zoe, a popular and outgoing star soccer player, shows warmth and mutual respect, though the question of what will happen after a conflict erupts between them goes strangely unresolved.
Nothing groundbreaking here, but Lupica delivers solid sports action and character growth. (Fiction. 10-14)