Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
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A hard-boiled depiction of life in the ghetto.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 12 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character drinks and smokes.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMatt's Mom March 12, 2013

Good read!

My son who hates to read really enjoyed reading this book.
Teen, 16 years old Written byDetroitLions21 April 3, 2021

Loved this book, I was anticipating reading the sequel as soon as I finished it

What pleased me about this book was how vague it was in regards to its sexual elements. This gritty and realistic book about how a relatable, impoverished, yet... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byKannada chan August 26, 2013


this is about friendships and trust .

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.

Talk to your kids 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
  • Genre: Sports
  • Book type: Fiction
  • Publisher: Bt Bound
  • Publication date: January 1, 1981
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 14
  • Number of pages: 183
  • Last updated: July 12, 2017

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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