Welcome to the Space Jam
NCAA March Madness is officially upon us and it seems like no better time to talk about some awesome YA novels where basketball plays a huge part in the story.
Full disclosure: I really only learned about basketball this past NBA season. I mean I know the general gist of the sport, and have enjoyed a basketball themed movie or two, but this past season is when I actually started watching games with some of my more basketball-passionate friends.
While they were busy raving about a bad call or amazing shot, I was doing my librarian thing and telling them about all the awesome YA sports stories SJPL has in the collection. (I'm fun at parties.)
What makes for a good sports book is that it is not only about the athletic pursuit in question. What makes a good basketball book is that the characters are fully fleshed, complex, and dynamic in addition to their passion and skills for the game. Basketball is a big part of the story, but what happens on the court is not the entirety of the story.
So while it may be hard to stay away from the TV or Internet during March Madness, these books below may inspire spending a little less time working on your bracket and a little more time reading.
For most of his time at an exclusive Boston private school, Bijan Majidi, a JV basketball player and good student, has kept his head down. After he's called up and subbed for a varsity player who's fouled out of a crucial game, Bijan leads the scoring in an upset victory and suddenly becomes popular. But when he gets involved in a petition drive to change the mascot of the tradition-bound school—largely to spend time near his crush, squash team standout Elle Powell—he finds he's run afoul of Will Thomas, a post-grad senior whose wealthy family includes major contributors to the school. An anonymous email sent to the entire community portrays Bijan as a terrorist, apparently based on his American-born mother of Iranian descent and a (now deceased) Jordanian father. While Bijan’s mother and some classmates protest this hate crime, Bijan resists becoming the symbol for “eradicat campus intolerance.” But when a similar attack targets two of his lesbian friends, he realizes the issue goes far beyond himself, eventually leading him to take a courageous public stance.
Told in alternating perspectives, after his best friend basketball superstar Bunny Thompson transfers schools for a better shot at college scholarships, Nasir is left angry and alone, abandoned for bigger and better things. When Nasir’s cousin Wallace gets into serious trouble trying to raise money to prevent his grandmother’s eviction, Nasir sees only one way out—asking his former best friend to throw the state championship game. Bunny must choose between losing his best friend and throwing away everything he has ever hoped for.
For Adam Reed, basketball is a passport. Adam’s basketball skills have taken him from an orphanage in Poland to a loving adoptive mother in Minnesota. When he’s tapped to play on a select AAU team along with some of the best players in the state, it just confirms that basketball is his ticket to the good life: to new friendships, to the girl of his dreams, to a better future.
The second book in the No Name series, Bobby, a modern Choctaw teen, is on the road to recovery. A star basketball player, he is rejoining the team after recovering from injuries inflicted by driving into Lake Thunderbird and almost drowning. His body is not the only thing that has healed: his father, newly sober, is a changed man, and his parents are healthier than ever. But his friends aren’t doing so well. His new girlfriend, Faye, is being bullied by another girl, and his rage-filled teammate Lloyd threatens to break up the team. Is Bobby healed enough to help his friends through their dark times?
When it comes to family, Annie is in the losers bracket. While her foster parents are great (mostly), her birth family would not have been her first pick. And no matter how many times Annie tries to write them out of her life, she always gets sucked back into their drama. Love is like that. But when a family argument breaks out at Annie's swim meet and her nephew goes missing, Annie might be the only one who can get him back. With help from her friends, her foster brother, and her social service worker, Annie puts the pieces of the puzzle together, determined to find her nephew and finally get him into a safe home.
Fifteen-year-old Sadia is passionate about one thing: basketball. When her teacher announces tryouts for an elite basketball team, she jumps at the opportunity. Her talent speaks for itself. Her head scarf, on the other hand, is a problem.