Lupica, Mike. Fast Break
November 3rd 2015 by Philomel Books
Copy from public library
Jayson's mother dies of drug related problems and her boyfriend pays the rent for two months and then takes off. Jayson is left in the apartment by himself and survives by stealing food and making sure he does well enough in school that teachers don't pry. When he needs new shoes for basketball, he takes a bus to a neighboring town so he can steal a pair unnoticed, but is caught and remanded to children's services. They place him with an African-American couple, the Lawtons, who have a grown son, and they are very understanding of his various plights. Jayson doesn't care, though. He hates his new school, where they have to wear khakis and polos, and while he doesn't act out terribly, he is not nice to be around, either. He is angry on the basketball court, and finds it hard to make friends. He goes back to his old neighborhood a couple of times on unathorized visits, but the Lawtons merely bring him back. His biggest upset is hearing the mother of the girl he likes discussing his background, and how he must be horrible because his mother died from drugs.
Strengths: Fair amount of basketball, and some interesting times when Jayson is playing against his former teammates. Also nice that the African-American family is the college educated care providers, and Jayson is white.
Weaknesses: Readers might have a little more sympathy for Jayson if there had been more details of how little his mother took care of him, and how difficult it was for him to survive alone. I know this is why he is angry, but Lupica could have made him far more sympathetic.
What I really think: Will buy, but I wish Lupica would write some happier books. Maybe he can't pull off humor, but can't we leave the depressing stuff to non-sportswriters like Gary Schmidt?