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That most primal of ordeals–a lousy round of golf–imparts life lessons to a callow adolescent in this winsome coming-of-age fable.

When their mom nags him and his little brother Matt into signing up for a kids’ golf tournament, 14-year-old Sam Parma couldn’t be more put out. Golf, Sam reasons, is a game for fuddy-duddies, and with his hand-me-down ladies’ clubs he’ll hardly cut a fine figure, even on the ratty municipal course. Sam’s foursome is a panoply of irksome idiosyncrasies, including foul-mouthed Buzzy, who lies regularly about his score; hulking hooligan Mark, who’d rather drive his ball through a nearby house’s windowpane than into the cup; and rich-kid Chad, who’s actually a nice guy and an annoyingly good golfer. Once on the links, Sam suffers the trials of Job. He’s ambushed by sand traps and water hazards; his 3-wood disintegrates mid-swing; he has a scary run-in with what appears to be a one-armed fiend while searching for a lost ball; and his flubbing of two easy putts gets immortalized by a local TV-news crew. Trailing the cheating Buzzy and marauding Mark, crying out for justice and receiving none from the indifferent powers-that-be, Sam veers perilously close to the moral rough. Slipped into Rosa’s lighthearted tale is a serious exploration of the moral dilemmas faced by these quirky, appealing teen characters. A few sermonettes–“Improper grammar and verbal miscues create barriers for many people and prevent them from higher levels of achievement”–seem canned and a bit off. But most of the precepts Sam learns–lonely are the brave; it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game; with a little luck and a lot of concentration, once in a while you can hit par–fall gracefully from the story.

A fresh, subtle take on timeless verities for young readers.

Pub Date: March 18th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-60528-002-8
Program: Kirkus Indie
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