A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Characters discuss famous basketball players, basketball history, and how the game works. Coaches and players work on basketball strategy, plays, and teamwork.
Strong themes of family, teamwork, and integrity. It's good to have big dreams, so dream big, work hard, and find what you love.
Positive Role Models
Characters are compassionate, empathetic, and work toward common goals. The main characters need basketball in their lives for different reasons, but they are all good, if not perfect, and display what it means to be a team.
The kids and most of the adults are Black and/or half-Black. Jayden is the main character, although, Tamika, Chris, Dex, and Anthony also get chapters where their perspectives are central.
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Violence & Scariness
A fight at school is referenced and also given a play-by-play after the fact. One kid punches another kid in the face very hard. A story of domestic violence is mentioned: A husband pushed his wife down some stairs, and she became paralyzed. A man with Parkinson's disease falls and hits his head on a kitchen counter while trying to reach for his daughter's arm. Some characters talk about break-ins and street violence.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Someone tells a story of a young man "getting his girlfriend pregnant." Anthony has a crush on another main character and writes love poems to her. Other kids sometimes talk about crushes.
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One "butt." One kid makes fun of another kid for not having a father around.
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Products & Purchases
Brands and intellectual property referenced include Sports Illustrated magazine, Gatorade, Snickers candy bars, Disney World, NBA 2K the video game series, Apple iPhones, ESPN, Toyota, YouTube, the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team, and Kwame Alexander's book The Crossover.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that We Are Family by NBA great LeBron James and Andrea Williams is a middle grade sports story about a bunch of kids trying to keep their "Hoop Group" basketball team alive. Once led by a man who famously coached an NBA superstar, the Hoop Group is all Jayden, Tamika, and Chris are looking forward to this year. But when Coach Beck surprise announces that he's stepping down and that Hoop Group will no longer happen, it's up to the kids to save the team. Expect lots of basketball action, teamwork, and problem solving. The main characters show integrity, perseverance, and gratitude. There are a few absent father figures, one of whom suffers from alcoholism. There are also some references to domestic violence (a man pushes his wife down the stairs and she becomes paralyzed), to fights at school (punches thrown), to home break-ins, and to an older man with Parkinson's Disease who falls over, hitting his head on a kitchen counter on the way down. An older brother mentions getting his girlfriend pregnant and having to throw away a basketball career in order to be a good father. One of the kids has a crush on Tamika and writes love poems to her. No strong language (one use of "butt"), however some kids make fun of another kid for not having a father around.
Is It Any Good?
While some of this story feels paint by number, the depth and variety of the main characters save the book from being overly ordinary. The way We Are Family gives each team member time in the spotlight is mainly great, because Tamika, Dex, Anthony, and Chris are diverse in personality, background, and what drives them. The one small drawback, however, is that by having such a great cast, it makes it hard for Jayden to shine. While Jayden is perfectly fine (he's smart, confident, and puts his family above himself), he isn't actually all that interesting, a fact only reinforced by his dropping out of the story for a good third somewhere in the middle. Around the same time or just before, Tamika really takes over as the most interesting character, and some readers might feel that this story really belongs (and always had belonged) to her. But there's a decent amount of actual basketball action, a strong girl character, and the story is uplifting, winning, and positive.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.