Swagger by Carl Deuker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm not usually one to read a sports-themed book, but this one had me turning pages and fighting my way through to the end, to the truth and the light and to the powerful story underneath. Even if you've lied a little, or even a lot, does speaking the truth matter more? Sure, there are tournaments to be won, and big, shiny trophies, but do they matter? Do college scholarships matter, even if you've worked hard to earn it? Does the truth matter more? When a friend needs you to speak the truth, and they can't speak up for themselves, would you do that? Would you risk it all for your friend? Would you do the right thing, even if if cost you everything you thought that mattered?
Deuker delivers in fast plays, well-crafted games, and at the center of his story, Jonas, the MC with the swagger to apply his skills on the court to his academics and future goals (college with a basketball scholarship), and to his relationships. SWAGGER follows Jonas from before he has any clear direction or goals, to a driven, committed young man coming into his own.
When Jonas's dad loses his job and has to relocate, Jonas is put to the test to start over and continue toward his goal of earning a full basketball scholarship to Monitor college by proving himself in his academics and in his skills on the court. It's one thing to play and make shots, and it's another thing entirely to lead players to function as a team, playing to their strengths and ensuring every player shines when called upon.
As the story unfolds, Jonas meets his new coach, Hartwell, who proves to be somewhat shady in the way he crosses moral lines with Jonas and his fellow players. Prior to being hired as coach, Hartwell meets the team and offers them tips on how to improve plays and shots at the local community court. Seemingly harmless at first, the reader slowly realizes how calculated Hartwell is, how nothing he does is an accident or coincidence, but each move is part of his bigger goal to gain the position of head coach and predator among his group of players.
Jonas and his best friend Levi play and sharpen one another all summer, and throughout their senior year, their friendship deepens. As the team works toward the state championships, Levi changes, keeping more to himself and withdrawing as a player. Jonas tries to reach out to Levi, but being a friend is what Levi ultimately needs, and this is proven when Levi reveals the secret that changes everything.
What a powerful read. Highly, highly recommended. And the games were pretty intense, too. Worth a read. Slam dunk.
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