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The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

 1 Stars
Derrick “D-Bow” Bowen has the same hoop dreams as every other rising freshman hot shot—to speedily convince the coach and upper-class players on the high school team of his awesomeness and to become the starter that will lead them to the state title. D-Bow has speed on the court and power on the dunk, but his jump shots need a total overhaul. He’s willing to learn, and Coach Bolden is willing to teach, but skills development and the integration of a new member into the team take patience, a virtue in short supply among adolescent boys charged up for a stellar season. A private academy that regularly grooms players for Division I college play is wooing D-Bow as well, and his own calculus of individual success versus team loyalty is complicated by his parents’ debates over race, class, and neighborhood loyalty. Though the familiar smackdowns, beat-ups, and general comeuppances that typically lead to life lessons learned and victory in YA sports fiction are all present, the book bypasses the customary convolutions in this sharply honed drama, making D-Bow’s story even more realistic and engaging for its sheer credibility. There are no good guys or bad guys here, no crimes or even bad decisions, just the strenuous effort of personal discipline and team-building that any athlete D-Bow’s age might encounter. Waltman’s acute ear for dialogue and effortless mastery at describing extended plays add the flash and velocity to keep readers fully invested in the outcome of the raggedy season. If the projected series develops as steadily as D-Bow himself, Waltman may take this one all the way.

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