Monday, April 20, 2009

Night Hoops Review

Night Hoops by Carl Deuker

Nick Abbott is a player and he knows it. He bleeds basketball and he's ready for the chance to prove it on the court as part of the Bothell High varsity basketball team. Once the basketball court is laid down in his back year Nick is out there every day, practicing and focusing on his game. It's a necessary distraction from all the fighting in his house and the commotion with the new neighbors across the street. The family has a boy Nick's age, Trent Dawson, who is not the type of person his parents want him associating with. However, Nick learns that Trent is also a player and in order to keep his basketball team together he has to help Trent try to help himself.

I really adored this book from start to finish. Nick Abbott is an instantly likable character who leaps off the page. After the first page I knew I was reading an authentic, well-written novel. I was so inside Nick's head that I cringed and covered my eyes whenever he made his stupid mistakes in basketball practice. I really felt his confusion, loneliness, doubt and triumph.

The book had a cheerful cast of characters including Trent, Nick's family, and some of his teammates. The author does an excellent job portraying the basketball team without overwhelming the reader with too many names and little things to remember about everyone. He uses the varsity team coach to pull everything together and the atmosphere of the locker room tells the reader everything they need to know about how the team is feeling and functioning.

The plot is jam-packed with basketball, family troubles, mystery, embarrassment and bad behavior but it is all weaved together artfully and keeps the story moving. There is a real sense of growth with Nick, Trent and the entire basketball team. The end will have you cheering like you were actually there. All of the scenes on the court are full of heart-stopping excitement, masterfully described so that a layperson with no background in basketball can enjoy it as well as those who are more familiar with the sport. It's a difficult task to vary sentences and describe shots so that it all sounds different each time but Deuker rises to the occasion through many basketball games and scores a slam dunk.

All in all, I'd highly recommend this book if you're looking for a strong YA novel from an authentic male point of view, especially if you want to read a sports novel. It's not scandalous, but it is very solid. The basketball scenes might bore people who aren't into basketball though but I still think you should give it a try.

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