________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 4. . . .September 27, 2013


Athlete vs. Mathlete.

W. C. Mack.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2013.
171 pp., pbk. & EBK, $6.99 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-1361-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4431-2463-8 (EBK).

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Stephanie Johnson.

** /4



For the first few minutes I was out on the court, I was lost. Everything seemed louder, brighter and faster than it did at practice. I tried to “just stand there,” but the Westhill team was pretty good at dribbling around me. At one point, Paul was heading for the basket and I chased after him, hoping I could somehow stop one of the Westhill players from blocking his shot. When I stopped, there was no one anywhere near me. There was nothing but open space between me and the hoop. “Paul,” I shouted, before I could change my mind. “Over here!” He turned and threw me the ball. I knew I had only a couple of seconds before the Westhill players would surround me, so I did the only thing I could think of. I took a jump shot. And scored three whole points! The only words I heard over the roar of the crowd was Coach shouting, “Nice hustle, Russell!”


Twins often demonstrate opposite characteristics in personality, and Owen and Russell are no different. Owen is the athlete in the family and is very passionate about basketball. Russell, on the other hand, is the genius in the family and spends his free time in pursuit of glory on a Masters of the Mind team. Things begin to go awry when Russell is recruited by the new basketball coach and begins to steal some attention away from Owen. While Russell is enjoying himself and is proud of having a new accomplishment, his enjoyment is short-lived as Owen’s jealousy takes over and makes everyone around him unhappy. When Russell begins skipping basketball in an attempt to avoid Owen, Owen finally realizes the damage he is causing both the team and his relationship with Russell.

     The novel alternates between the perspectives of each brother, providing readers with a glimpse into both of their minds and the emotional turmoil they experience throughout the story. This style of writing was effective in connecting readers with the characters of Russell and Owen as their emotions were felt strongly and readers cannot help but be happy, frustrated and sad right alongside the brothers. The downside to these dual perspectives lies in the unbalanced portrayal of the brothers. Russell is never seen as having a fault and is definitely the victim in the story, while Owen’s jealousy and anger towards his brother makes him seem petty and unlikeable which does not seem to be the effect the author intended. It seems as though the dual perspectives were meant to allow the reader to see both sides of the story and be able to sympathize with both characters, but the portrayal of Owen never allows this to happen.

     The novel also falls prey to character stereotypes which make the characters both tiresome and possibly offensive to some. For example, Russell is a typical nerd and, therefore, is passionate about reading and fantasy novels. The father loves sports and takes enjoyment in watching sports on television and in playing sports with his sons. While these portrayals are anything but unique, it would have been nice to see some variety in the characters and less typical personalities.

     Despite these shortcomings, Athlete vs. Mathlete does an excellent job in portraying what it is like for twin siblings. The love and occasional resentment the brothers feel for each other was evident and is a realistic portrayal of how many sibling relationships operate. The energetic descriptions of basketball added an addictive element to the novel as the games are told so realistically that the reader cannot help but be drawn in, making this novel a great read for youth who love sports.


Stephanie Johnson is a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Studies Program from the University of Alberta.

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

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