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)