Compelling characters and solid sports action.

THE FINAL FOUR

Volponi's latest combines in-the-moment action, basketball history and the points of view of four college ballplayers with very different lives.

The frame story here is a white-knuckle NCAA championship game between Michigan State's Spartans and the underdog Trojans from Troy University. Television interviews, news articles, radio transcripts and segments narrated from individual players' perspectives lay out the minute-by-minute action of the game and the context and personal histories surrounding it. Readers meet talented but arrogant Malcolm McBride, who plans to leave Michigan State for the NBA immediately after his freshman year, second-tier player Michael Jordan (MJ), whom Malcolm berates for not living up to his namesake's prowess, Crispin Rice, who became a viral video sensation when he proposed impulsively to his cheerleader girlfriend after a dramatic play on the court, and Roko Bacic, who lost a journalist uncle to an attack by Zagreb mobsters. No story or character is simple: Malcolm, for instance, is both sympathetic and perilously self-centered, and his argument that the NCAA profits unfairly from student athletics will provoke debate among readers. The pace of the game lulls a bit in the middle but picks up again in the tense and unpredictable finale.

Compelling characters and solid sports action. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-01264-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams.

K-POP CONFIDENTIAL

Who doesn’t want to be a K-pop idol?

Fifteen-year-old Candace Park is just a typical Korean American teen from Fort Lee, New Jersey. She loves hanging out with her friends Imani and Ethan while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, mukbang shows about eating massive amounts of Korean food, and advice from beauty vloggers. While Candace focuses on doing well in school, her hardworking immigrant Umma and Abba gave up on their own dreams to run a convenience store. Candace loves to sing and is a huge K-pop stan—but secretly, because she fears it’s a bit stereotypical. Everything changes after Candace and her friends see an ad for local auditions to find members of a new K-pop group and Candace decides to try out, an impulse that takes her on the journey of a lifetime to spend a summer in Seoul. Lee’s fun-filled, fast-paced K-pop romp reads like a reality show competition while cleverly touching on issues of racism, feminism, unfair beauty expectations and labor practices, classism and class struggles, and immigration and privilege. While more explanation of why there are such unfair standards in the K-pop industry would have been helpful, Lee invites readers to enjoy this world and question the industry’s actions without condescension or disdain. Imani is Black; Ethan is White and gay.

A thoughtful portrayal of determined multinational teens balancing authenticity with pursuing their dreams. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-63993-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Point/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A superb, complex romance full of heart, humor, and unforgettable characters.

ALL THE THINGS WE NEVER KNEW

Two promising Texas basketball players navigate the ups and downs of first love.

For 11th grade star players Carli and Rex, it’s love at first sight when he blows her a kiss from the free-throw line as she watches the game on the sidelines. Carli believes in magic and looks for signs in everyday life—like Rex’s kiss—to help her make decisions. Who should she live with after her parents’ divorce? What should she do with her future—one that won’t include basketball, which she knows will disappoint her father and teammates? Rex is a nature lover like his mother, who died giving birth to him. His father is distant, and inside their big, lonely house, Rex dreams of the NBA. Carli and Rex’s roller-coaster romance is rife with betrayal, heartbreak, grief, and family secrets. As narrators of alternating chapters, they are funny, smart, and unflinchingly candid. Well-written dialogue and fine attention to detail reveal Tamani’s strong insight into Gen Z life. The intensity and depth of Carli and Rex’s love story are conveyed as deftly as the high-energy play-by-plays in their basketball games. Tamani crafts layers of complexity around falling in love, making hard choices, and dealing with loss—on and off the court—in this deeply intimate story of two talented, sensitive teens. Carli, Rex, and their relatives and friends are Black; Rex’s teammates are White.

A superb, complex romance full of heart, humor, and unforgettable characters. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265691-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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