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A hard-boiled depiction of life in the ghetto.
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What parents need to know

Positive messages

This is a hard-boiled depiction of life in the ghetto and the world of basketball with a positive twist.

Positive role models

A few uses of an epithet for blacks, usually by African-American characters. The main character steals, drinks, smokes, fights, and defies authority.


A girl is beaten up, a man is murdered, and the main character gets into fights.


The main character and his girlfriend have sex, but it is not described.


Occasional mild to moderate swearing.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character drinks and smokes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a hard-boiled depiction of life in the ghetto and the world of basketball, as the main character hovers between crime and a scholarship. Poor grammar adds to the realism. Compelling writing illuminates the life of a street-smart kid and a failed athlete. Suspense and great basketball action keep kids hooked.

What's the story?

Lonnie lives in Harlem with little hope for the future. He has one asset, his basketball game. His only chance for a scholarship depends on Cal, a failed pro who has hit bottom. Cal improves Lonnie's game, but disappears just when Lonnie needs him most. Fast basketball action and sensitive characterization combined with a suspenseful story attracts sports-minded readers.


Is it any good?


Fast, detailed basketball action combined with a realistic depiction of life on the streets of Harlem keeps kids who love sports enthralled. Seventeen-year old Lonnie wants to stay out of the violent organized crime in his neighborhood, but has no qualms about stealing a carton of scotch when the opportunity arises. He's in school, but his life revolves around basketball, in which he has real talent. His only chance to escape poverty comes with a basketball tournament for street kids -- Lonnie confidently expects to emerge as a leading player and get a scholarship.

Walter Dean Myers realistically reproduces the slang used by the characters, and gives readers a strong sense of life in the ghetto. Lonnie has little adult supervision but he has values, especially regarding basketball. He's appalled that Cal lost everything by participating in a gambling scheme. The re-emergence of the gamblers in Lonnie's tournament adds considerable suspense.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about values and ethical choices.

  • Do Lonnie's values vary depending on what's at stake?

Book details

Author:Walter Dean Myers
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Bt Bound
Publication date:January 1, 1981
Number of pages:183
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 14

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Teen, 13 years old Written byvideogamer13579 September 28, 2009

good for teens

this book is good for kids 13 and up cuz they get to know th real world a lil
Teen, 16 years old Written byryan4 May 12, 2009
Teen, 13 years old Written bykeaira April 9, 2008