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From the PublisherBooklist 9/1/05
Waltman, Kevin. Learning the Game. 2005. 224p. Scholastic, $16.95 (0-439-73109-7).
Gr. 912. Nate is looking forward to the start of the basketball season when he hopes to finally become a starter on his high-school team. One night in late summer, at the end of a pickup game, one of Nate's teammates suggests that they break into a local fraternity house. Despite his pangs of conscience, Nate goes along with the crime and helps carry the loot to a van. The basketball players are soon the prime suspects in the break-in, which becomes big news in Nate's small Indiana college town. Nate wants to come forward, but his girlfriend and friends talk him out of it; his confession would mean that he and the others involved would be kicked off the team. The sports story and Nate's dilemma are made more complex by Nate's complicated relationship with his tormented older brother. The layered issues, together with excellent writing that's sparked with many sharp phrases, make for a compelling novel that offers no easy answers. Todd Morning VOYA 10/1/05
Nate Gilman has spent all summer working on his game at the full court near the Sigma Chi fraternity house. A new school year is about to begin, and he will soon learn if his hard work will pay off. It has to, After all, Nate is the “golden boy” of his small Indiana town. He is handsome, makes good grades, comes from a rich family, and has an awesome J (jump shot). Besides, compared to his brother Marvin, who fired the gun that killed his neighborhood playmate, Jeff, Nate is close to perfect. Or is he? Days before Midnight Madness, the practice marking the beginning of basketball season, coach interrogates each of his players about their alleged involvement in a break-in. No one falters in their loyalty to each other or in their willingness to ensure that the team remains intact and eligible to play at the season's start. Coach releases a sigh of relief until Nate, who tries to maintain his usual facade, which now includes covering up his participation in the robbery, admits involvement. When he does, team members turn against him, he is kicked off the basketball team, and he realizes that he has no idea how to play this position in the game of life.
This title is a must-have for those interested in putting books in the hands of adolescent boys, but female sports fans and those who like books with severely flawed heroes will find it a page-turner as well.