Scholastic, 2008. 978-0545055741.
Winner of the 1997 Coretta Scott King Book Award
Synopsis: Greg ‘Slam’ Harris knows how to hoop. He’s a powerhouse ball player that has his eye set on the NBA. But his teachers can’t seem to dig it, always getting on his case about his grades, about how he could do better. Then he starts to see the other side, starts to see what it looks like when you can’t make it, when you have to face not being on top. Turns out, life is a game and he doesn’t have the ball.
Why I picked it up: Meyers was a popular author among many of my library school peers and his work came to me highly recommended.
Why I finished it: I had a really hard time getting into this book, not because of the subject matter, but because it was written in dialect, mirroring the way we speak. It gives the reader a sense of the narrator and how he views the world around him, but it makes for somewhat annoying reading material. I found myself gleaning the story mostly from context, which also made it difficult to get into the book. The sports writing was enjoyable: I’m a huge hoops fan – mostly college ball – and it was intriguing to me to have the game set up from the players perspective and to have insight on the lingo they use for the plays and the ball. I like first person narratives because they tend to be more ‘reliable’ and we have a better feel for the characters and their emotions. I can totally understand Slam’s frustrations at being bothered about his grades and his performance off the court. I’ve been haggled about needing an attitude adjustment, about needing to ‘do the right thing’. And yeah, some of that comes from being a teen and being in situations where you don’t think anyone understands you. But as a reader, we see that Slam has potential; we want him to wake up and realize that there’s a little more going on than just the stuff happening to him. Whether or not a wake-up call will stick is hard to say, but if it comes from the right place, it can make all the difference. If you like books that read like you talk, then I’d recommend it. If you’re like me and you know you’re going to be slogging through it, perhaps one of Meyers other works will be a better choice.
Other related materials: Hoops by Walter Dean Meyers; Game by Walter Dean Meyers; Monster by Walter Dean Meyers; Kick by Walter Dean Meyers and Ross Workman; Scorpions by Walter Dean Meyers; Somewhere in the Darkness by Walter Dean Meyers; The Jericho Trilogy by Sharon M. Draper; We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Pact Lead to Success by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt, and Sharon M. Draper; True Legend by Mike Lupica; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; Ball Don’ Lie by Matt de la Peña; Boy21 by Matthew Quick; Night Hoops by Carl Deuker; Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson