Wednesday, June 06, 2018


36373235Stokes, Maura Ellen. Fadeaway
June 5th 2018 by Yellow Jacket
ARC provided by author.

Sam is devastated when her very best friend and basketball teammate Reagan collapses and dies suddenly because of a heart issue during the summer before their freshman year. Her parents and brothers are supportive, but nothing can assuage the grief she feels at not having her constant companion by her side. She does manage to attend the second day of school, but it is hard to go through classes that Reagan had helped her schedule, and deal with well meaning friends who don't quite know what to say. It's a relief to talk to the new boy, Kevin, who doesn't seem to know about Reagan... at first. Sam thinks it might be too hard to play basketball, but her other teammates encourage her to try out. It doesn't help that Sam hears Reagan's voice, but Reagan encourages Sam to move on, and isn't always around every time that Sam would like her to be. Basketball goes okay, and getting back into running and schoolwork makes Sam's parents back off their insistence that Sam go to grief counseling. However, Sam's grades are still not good, and when she passes a basketball to Reagan (who is, of course, not there), her parents insist on counseling. Slowly but surely, Sam is able to assemble a new normal for herself.
Strengths: I always need books about girls' basketball, and this had a lot of good scenes with teammates, plays, and even academic eligibility. It's great that Sam started high school-- there has been some discussion lately of what age of characters makes a middle grade book, and I wish there were more 9th graders represented, since middle school students are curious about high school. The best part of this book was what I absolutely thought I would hate-- the portrayal of grief. Sam's difficulties are not sugar coated-- there are times when it's hard to get out of bed, when she collapses in tears, and when it's just really hard to talk to people. But she tries. Her parents try. They watch her and know what needs to be done. The staff at school keep an eye out for her and make her accountable for her grades, but not in an overly punitive way. Grief has a lot of back and forth, but it's essential to keep making tiny, tiny improvements, and that's what we see here. Reagan's voice (and I wouldn't really count this as magical realism-- I think Sam is just creating Reagan in her mind and thinking about what her friend WOULD say) doesn't play a huge role in the book, but is realistic and gives us an idea of what Reagan was like, and how the girls' friendship supported both of them. There's a fun incident with Kevin getting in trouble for wearing a black trench coat, and a fun protest that Sam masterminds that shows that Sam is on her way to being able to keep fond memories of her friend but engage in her own life. Very brilliantly written.
Weaknesses: I was a little surprised that we didn't see any of Reagan's family.
What I really think:  Definitely purchasing, and think this will be hugely popular with readers who like stories like VanDraanen's The Running Dream that combine serious issues with sports in a particularly clever and engaging way.

1 comment:

  1. You can never forget your first brush with death when it's a friend and that friend is only a teen. I'm think the author took out the family because that left the protagonist even more vulnerable. Of course, I'm guessing because I haven't read the book. Yet.