5.23.2007

Reading Life 9

Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Peña
This is what I'm talking about: a book that is so fresh, so on-the-forefront, so chockfull of genuine voice it's not even funny. It's no wonder ALA chose it as one of its Best Books for YAs or why all the positive reviews. What is a wonder is why it wasn't chosen as the Printz winner. Or the National Book Award.
Sticky, the soon-to-graduate ball player knows nothing else but the court on which, when he's on he flows, he lives in the moment of the arc of the shot headed right smack-dab into the hoop, nothing but net. When his girlfriend, Annie, asks him one night what makes him the happiest, aside from spending time with her, of course, his answer is expected: playing ball, but not just playing, excelling in it, outplaying even the toughest of opponents, jab-stepping, and going for his shot, the one out of a thousand possiblities. Always dreaming of playing college ball, maybe even in the NBA. He's that good, this kid.
The kid's lived a hard life, in and out of foster homes, being dropped off back at 7FLOW, his "foster pad," having lost his mother early on, having lost himself in that tragic moment. Making all kinds of rash decisions outside of the Lincoln Rec center (and his naivete hurts you). Making it worse, he suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, he knows it, and tries to force himself to stop being that way. It takes another near-tragic moment for Sticky to find himself. And one of the most beautiful things he finds in this very emotional roller-coaster of an ending is Annie, having spent the night at the hospital watching over him, even in her sleep. She hasn't quit on him, no matter all the dumb things he's done.
What I love about de la Peña's writing is the language: it's poetic, it, like Sticky's most perfect shot, flows, but it flows in a very new way. It seems private at first, very much the lingo of the court, an insider's language; within pages, though, a reader will grow into it, understand it, be able to speak it. I'm not talking about the b-ball lingo; I'm talking about the writing langauge. This story could not have been told in any other tongue.
It's a wonderful novel!

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