Ben McBain and his friends are still celebrating their incredible football championship season (Game Changers, 2012) when the time arrives to prepare for basketball.
As always, Ben is the heart and soul of his team and looks forward to maintaining their athletic success. A preseason scrimmage with a rival team introduces a new challenge: Chase Braggs, a talented player with an attitude that seems from the beginning to be directed at Ben. Before he realizes it, Ben has let Chase get under his skin and turned from his love of excellence for its own sake to proving he can outdo the brash newcomer. Ben’s relentless pursuit of victory results in a serious injury to his friend Sam that will be a tough blow to their team. As if that isn’t enough, Chase seems to be making inroads in a friendship with Lily, someone who has always been an important presence in Ben’s otherwise sports-dominated life. Like the first in the series, this volume provides an action-packed look at middle school sports as it explores issues of friendship, problem solving and coming-of-age. Once again, the adults provide guidance in supportive roles, but the kid characters, especially Ben, demonstrate the ability of younger teens to learn from their experiences. A reconciliation between Ben and Chase doesn’t quite ring true, but this is a slight quibble in an otherwise satisfying read.
Sports fans will eat it up. (Fiction. 8-12)