Lupica, Mike. Play Makers (Game Changers #2)
5 February 2012
Ben and his teammates have just finished a successful football season (in Game Changers) and are heading right into a basketball scrimmage with their biggest rival. New to that school is Chase Braggs, who is an even better player than Ben but is cocky and mean as well. Not only that, but Ben's friend (and crush) Lily hangs out with some friends of Chase's and thinks he's okay. When the basketball season gets progressively worse instead of better, Ben's playing goes downhill as well. He's not having any fun. In one extra angst-fueled practice session, his friend Sam sprains his ankle and is out for a while. Coop and Shawn try to rally, and MJ, who has never made the team before, gets a chance to finally play, but the team can't pull it together. Ben starts acting out on the court, and comes to blows with Lily over her friendship with Chase and Ben's actions on and off the court. Can Ben bring himself out of the funk before the end of the basketball season?
Strengths: Like the first book, the emotions in this surprised me but then rang very true. Students get very invested in sports, and their performance on the field can affect their school work, and vice versa. I liked Lily a lot (although we are still told repeatedly that she's cool "for a girl"), and the parents have brief and understandable appearances. Excellent basketball action-- or it must be, because there were a lot of games described and I really didn't quite understand! I even like the name of Ben's nemesis-- it's a name that could really exist and not overly goofy. Chase Braggs. Good stuff.
Weaknesses: I would have liked to hear more about Shawn, and seen Ben at school a little more. I know this was busy with games, home life, and hanging out, but school is such an integral part of the middle grade experience that I would have liked to see how Ben acted there.