Publishers Weekly - Publishers WeeklyHank, the ninth-grade narrator of this lightweight novel, Eulo's children's book debut, has unhappily moved to a new town in the wake of their parents' divorce. He, his older brother and young sister are to live with their father; their mother, a tennis coach, travels all the time. Hank's delivery can be coy (Mom "calls every day and always sounds like she's got a cold when she hangs up") and the narrative strains for comic effect. Geeky Tremont, the "total social disaster" who lives next door, tutors Hank, who sets about improving his tutor's image. Tremont's makeover (which is overwhelmingly successful) includes talking back to the villainous algebra teacher ("I'm not going to... to put your... your old algebra on the... the dumb old blackboard") and punching out a classmate; the dialogue, which favors expressions like "danged" and "to heck with them," belies the Jimmy Dean swagger. In other plot lines that run to wish fulfillment, perceived wimps experience the thrill of victory over jocks, and the algebra teacher, driven from her job, suffers the agony of defeat. The author caps these overdone scenarios with a shopworn twist: Hank secretly enters his parents into a mixed-doubles tournament at a prestigious amateur event, in the hope of reuniting them. While the narrator's disdain for learning changes, his initial sneering may alienate book-loving readers at the outset, while tennis enthusiasts will wish for more court action. Ages 11-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYAHank is beginning his freshman year of high school in the tiny, undistinguished town of Alamar, California, without the presence of his world-class tennis coach mother. Since his parents' separation, Hank has had to endure the poverty of living with his underemployed father, as well as deal with the loss of his life's passion, tennis. To add to his misery, Hank's new next-door neighbor is a serious loser named Tremont, who latches on to Hank as if he were Hank's best friend. To Hank's surprise, Tremont turns out to be an academic asset, and he plays a role in re-awakening Hank's desire to swing his tennis racket. Family problems begin to smooth out, not as Hank anticipated but in a direction that improves the lives of all. The novel ends with a happy Hank, cute girlfriend and tennis trophy in tow. Eulo's first young adult novel has an appealing energy, with snappy dialogue and a fast-paced plot. There are a few false notes, particularly in the development of Hank's older brother, Jerome, a tennis-prodigy-turned-nerd. Hank is profoundly embarrassed by this transformation and by Jerome's new girlfriend, a stereotypically brainy girl who sports glasses and braces. Nerdiness is also neighbor Tremont's biggest social crime, which is remedied when Hank coaches Tremont to openly defy an unpopular teacher. This repugnance of nerds seems overplayed, in the light of Hank's more serious problems. The story would also have been well served (pun intended!) by more tennis scenes, allowing the reader to feel the importance of the sport as a redemptive tool in Hank's life. VOYA Codes: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; JuniorHigh, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Holiday House, 185p,
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 6-8-A story about forgiveness, friendship, and accepting people as they are. Hank, Jerome, and Sarah move from Los Angeles to Alamar, CA, with their father after their mother, a nationally known tennis coach, decides to put her career before her family. Hank, 14, is befriended by the nerd next door, and, despite the threat of social suicide, he and Tremont become friends. When Jerome, a nationally ranked tennis player, gives up the game and his chance of a scholarship to get back at his mother, Hank keeps pestering him to get ready for the Pacific Palisades Country Club singles and doubles tournament, and Jerry finally picks up his racket again. In order to practice, they must beat the school jocks in a match to use the courts, resulting in a hilarious scene in which the two brothers annihilate their opponents. Hank's freshman year proves to be one of great growth and understanding of relationships. His family, though separated by divorce, is still bonded together by love for one another and the friendship between Hank's parents.-Angela M. Ottman, Merton Williams' Middle School, Hilton, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsFor sports and humor fans, this fast-paced romp through the ninth grade focuses on a boy trying to cope with his parents' divorce. Hank, his siblings, and their father have moved to a tiny California coastal town after his parents' separation. All are passionate tennis players. The long absences of Hank's mother, a professional coach to star athletes, have destroyed the marriage, but the devastated Hank can't stop scheming to bring his parents back together. Meanwhile, he covers his pain with humor and reluctantly befriends Tremont, his geeky next-door neighbor. Seeing the impossibility of avoiding Tremont, he induces the boy to lose weight and become more popular by defying their strict algebra teacher. Star student Tremont takes Hank under his wing academically and both make great strides toward success. Dramatic conflict continues as older brother Jerome, expected to become a high-earning professional tennis player, abandons the game. Hank virtually forces his brother to resume playing, but loses heart himself with the failure of his schemes to reunite his parents. The story veers from realism by making Hank and Jerome superstar jocks and by an all-too-easily won battle over the math teacher, but the constant humor in Hank's voice saves the effort from complete fantasy. While Hank sounds a bit too mature for a 14-year-old, nevertheless the story moves along at a zippy pace and should keep young readers interested with its upbeat outlook and happy ending. (Fiction. 12-16)
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This book is great!