________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 14. . . .December 3, 2010.


Fadeaway. (Sports Stories).

Steven Barwin.
Toronto, ON: Lorimer, 2010.
124 pp., pbk., hc. & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $8.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-55277-547-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-548-6 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55277-549-3 (ebook).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Yahong Chi.





“Foul, Bulls Number 9. Hornet gets two shots.”

I looked up in shock. We’d been brought back from the dead. Kate pranced around the court, collecting high-fives like they were hundred-dollar bills. When she passed me she held up her hand. I hesitantly lifted mine and smiled. Did this mean things were okay now? I reached for her hand and she pulled away, smiling evilly at me. I shook my head.

From the key everyone watched the intensity on Kate’s face as she prepared to shoot.

Swoosh. Her first shot was nothing but net. The game was tied.

She quickly reloaded and, again, swoosh. Just like that, we’d stolen the game from the Bulls.

Everyone piled on Kate in celebration except for me. Not only did she steal the win from under me, but that game-winning, all-star moment made her an official Hornet. I’d never felt so detached from my team.

As captain of the Richmond Hill Hornets, 12-year-old Renna is confident in her basketball team’s ability to win first-place in their inter-school tournament. Then, right after a hard-won game puts them in the leading spot, the team gets the bad news: Renna’s left winger, Caitlyn, is leaving for Vancouver. Worse, a girl from the rival team, the Warriors, is replacing her. Her name’s Kate, she’s older than the rest of the team by a grade, and Renna can just tell that Kate’s a jerk. Renna’s efforts to welcome Kate are met by cold-shouldered brush-offs, and mean coded messages about Renna even appear on the team’s website. Meanwhile, Kate’s got the whole team wrapped around her finger, even the substitutes. When Renna’s attempt to set Kate up and prove she’s a bully backfires, Renna starts to take out her frustrations on her substitute, Natalie. Just as a “sports” book should, the conflict begins and ends on the basketball court.

     While the pacing of the storyline is done well, as it should in a hi-lo series, the story is overpopulated with female characters, and, by the sixth chapter, the common girl names are jumbled in the reader’s mind. The topic of bullying is a used one and is barely made fresh by the sports guise and cyber bullying aspect. Renna, herself, suffers in silence and does nothing against Kate’s antagonism without the help of her friends, and the only adults mentioned are Reena's father (once) and the almost comical Coach Philip; no help is sought out, despite Renna’s Internet search on bullies. Another one-time appearance is Renna’s sister, Anita, who speaks about four sentences but still doesn’t manage to talk like her age. (What eight-year-old says “You lost me”?) However, an interesting turn of events is when Renna, herself, becomes the bully, even for a short period of time. As well, Renna’s thoughts that her skin colour could be the root of the bullying is unexpected and an intriguing thought. The twist ending is nice, but it doesn’t show credibility when reading the previous few chapters through a new perspective; Kate’s vulnerability shows up only in the second-last chapter.

     There is adequate basketball activity on the court. However, readers may, ironically, be turned off by the solid paragraph blocks that are used to describe the action. Basketball terminology, such as ‘point guard’ and ‘three-pointer,’ is suitably kept to a minimum. An odd addition to the book is the use of the foreword in which self-dubbed Q-Mack, a ‘basketball trickster and anti-bullying speaker’ (according to the cover), introduces the book and its topic with the typical style of a non-writer. It is unrelated enough to possibly turn readers away, rather than entice them.

     Fadeaway, with its fast paced plot, might appeal to some readers looking for a quick read centered around sports.

Recommended with reservations.

Yahong Chi is a blogger and freelancer in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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