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Playing Without the Ball by Rich Wallace
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Playing Without the Ball

by Rich Wallace

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The title of this Rich Wallace book 'hints' at the adventurous, developmental tasks that a 17-year old boy who is abandoned by his parents encounters. It's not like Jay's parents died; they divorced and moved away leaving Jay on his own. Coping with loneliness, Jay gets a job and deals with dysfunctional characters - yet readers get the feeling his confidence in himself grows as he takes the responsibility of developing views of his life. I feel Jay's story holds up as a good example for a sports novel suggested in the recorded lecture. (portrays developmental tasks and is reassuring).
A 17-year old boy abandoned by his parents in a small Pennsylvania town develops HOPE for the future through a female friend and a church-sponsored basketball team.
Jane Van Wiemokly (VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4))
Basketball means everything to seventeen-year-old Jay--before school, on weeknights, on weekends, at the Y, and eventually, in a church-sponsored league after he fails to make the varsity team. Although his father divorced his mother and moved to California to escape small town Sturbridge, Pennsylvania, the setting for two other Wallace sports books, Wrestling Sturbridge (Knopf, 1996/VOYA June 1997) and Shots on Goal (Knopf, 1997), and his alcoholic mother lives in New Jersey, Jay remains in Sturbridge to complete his senior year of high school. Living alone over a bar and working as its short-order cook, he copes with his loneliness, his varsity disappointment, and his lack of parental supervision. His friend Spit, a singer who performs regularly in the bar, has her own problems with drugs and overdosing, loose sexual values, and sabotaging Jay's attempts to date another girl by having sex with him herself. Most of the characters seem dysfunctional. Fellow team player Alan runs the local Methodist youth group, but he thinks nothing of smoking and passing around joints with his friends right after a youth minister recruits him to speak about the infiltration of drug use in the community. Alcohol and drug use are prevalent throughout the book, except by Jay, who knows that indulging would be bad for him. As the church-sponsored basketball tournament advances, readers will sense Jay gaining confidence in himself and in his ability to survive. The well-written basketball scenes are exciting and fast paced and will appeal to older, more mature readers who like sports fiction. Other nonsports readers will appreciate the growth in Jay's relationships and his responsibility in developing views of his life. PLB VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Knopf, 224p, $15.95. PLB, $17.99. Ages 15 to 18.

Best Books:
Best Books for Young Adults, 2001 ; American Library Association-YALSA; United States
The Children's Literature Choice List, 2001 ; Children's Literature; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle And Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, August 2000 ; Cahners; United States
Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2001 ; American Library Association-YALSA; United States
Senior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Fifteenth Edition, 2001 ; H.W. Wilson; United States ( )
  mrbobbyhopkins | Oct 20, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440229723, Mass Market Paperback)

There are dozens of detailed, play-by-play descriptions of basketball games in Playing Without the Ball--good news for basketball fans; perhaps bad news for the less enthralled. Rich Wallace, author of Wrestling Sturbridge, is a sportswriter and coach, and it shows. He writes with vigor and authority about the inner workings of athletic competition and the progress of a game but in this book, fails to connect those elements with the plot and convince us that the outcome matters. But never mind. For some teens, as one of his characters says, "There's never enough basketball."

Jay McLeod is "the only 17-year-old around who's living alone"--in an apartment over a bar while he finishes his senior year of high school. His mom left when he was nine, and his dad opted out early last year to live his own life, leaving his almost-grown son in the casual care of the bar owner. In the evenings Jay has a job downstairs in the kitchen, frying up wings and egg rolls while other people are partying in the next room. But it's not too bad. Jay has time for lots of basketball for its own sake, and the freedom to check out girls and see where that leads.

Rich Wallace has a keen ear for the nuances of young sexual encounters, and his female characters are comfortable with themselves in their easy athleticism--both elements score points in a story that nevertheless bounces off the rim. (Ages 14 and older) --Patty Campbell

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:17 -0400)

Feeling abandoned by his parents, who have gone their separate ways and left him behind in a small Pennsylvania town, seventeen-year-old Jay finds hope for the future in a church-sponsored basketball team and a female friend.

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