Fast Break

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
Fast Break Book Poster Image
Inspiring and entertaining sports story for tweens.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The book is long and wordy, good for young readers in need of easily digestible material. A good choice for reluctant readers.

Positive Messages

Trust the gifts that are given to you and the love and support people offer you. Strong messages about teamwork, dedication, honesty, and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jayson, had a rough childhood. His perseverance and determination to succeed in the face of adversity is astounding for a 12-year-old, though his hot-headed competitive streak gets him in trouble more than a few times, both on and off the court. Though Jayson is a flawed hero, he is heroic nonetheless, braving the early death of his mother, arrest and entry into Child Protective Services and the foster care system, a new school and new friend group, and, most difficult of all, the emotional turbulence of middle school flirtation and jealousy. His adoptive parents are loving and supportive.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jayson's late mother is described as someone who suffered from drug addiction, though the book doesn't go into specifics, other than to serve as an example why Jayson vows to never do drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mike Lupica's Fast Break is a tween sports novel about a talented but troubled middle school basketball player who loses his mother and is forced to assimilate into a new family, school, and team. It deals with social dynamics, a young person's experience of poverty and grief, and the confusing hormones of adolescence. A good bet for tween athletes and sports fans.

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What's the story?

FAST BREAK is a coming-of-age sports story from bestselling children's novelist, sportswriter, and ESPN Radio personality Mike Lupica. Twelve-year-old star point guard Jayson Barnes has his whole life upended when his mother dies and her boyfriend leaves him alone in a sketchy apartment in the projects. After a brush with the law, Jayson is taken in by wealthy foster parents who shower him with love and gifts that he isn't emotionally prepared for, causing him to lash out. From there, Fast Break follows the familiar formula of a troubled tween sports star who has to overcome his shortcomings to succeed in a tough situation. 

Is it any good?

Fast Break is an entertaining page-turner with intriguing, dynamic characters and issues of grief and being a foster child that add layers of substance to the central basketball plot line. Basketball fans will love the references to current players and their playing styles, such as Jayson being compared to Wizards' star John Wall, "a born point guard," while Jayson's friend Tyrese is Wall's running mate Bradley Beal, "lighting it up from the outside."

Author Mike Lupica is a solid sports storyteller, but his sports-jargon-filled sentence fragments, meant to show what's going on inside Jayson's head, seem forced. Still, it's a good pick for middle schoolers who, on the surface, may seem to be single-mindedly obsessed with sports but in reality have a lot more going on inside. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how difficult it is to lose parents at an early age. How does Jayson respond? How do his foster parents, the Lawtons, aid his emotional recovery?

  • Jayson has a ton of individual skill and talent, but his game doesn't truly open up until he learns to trust his teammates and always "find the open man." Why are connection and communication so essential to success in team sports?

  • A central focus of the book is the contrast between Jayson's humble beginnings in the projects and his charmed new life across town. How does where you live affect the opportunities available to you? How do your surroundings shape your state of mind?

Book details

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For kids who love sports and competition

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