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Swagger Paperback – Jan 2 2015
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A Junior Library Guild Selection
Deuker creates a textured cast of parents, coaches, and teens and deftly handles themes of personal ethics, teamwork, burgeoning friendships, and coping with an abusive adult."
"A largely well-executed exploration of team spirit, friendship and the devastating impact of untrustworthy adults."
"Basketball fans will love the realistic hardwood action."
- The Horn Book Magazine
"The novel includes descriptions of many basketball plays and strategies, which should make this book particularly appealing to fans of the game."
- Publishers Weekly
"This is solid Deuker turf, populated by good kids trapped between conscience and goals. Expect fans to grab this title as soon as it hits the shelf."
"Short, action-packed chapters make for a quick read, but the story's underlying messages will linger. . . . What makes this story special is the careful handling of an incredibly difficult topic."
- VOYA, 5Q 4P J S
"Deuker's ability to create fully realized characters who wrestle with moral dilemmas while incorporating plenty of game action raises his novel above typical sports fiction by several notches. This one will satisfy the author's longtime fans and win him many new ones."
- School Library Journal "
About the Author
Carl Deuker participated in several sports as a boy. He was good enough to make most teams, but not quite good enough to play much. He describes himself as a classic second-stringer. I was too slow and too short for basketball; I was too small for football, a little too chicken to hang in there against the best fastballs. So, by my senior year the only sport I was still playing was golf." Carl still loves playing golf early on Sunday mornings at Jefferson Park in Seattle, the course on which Fred Couples learned to play. His handicap at present is 13. Combining his enthusiasm for both writing and athletics, Carl has created many exciting, award-winning novels for young adults. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington, with his wife and daughter."See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
There are obstacles in Jonas's way. For one, he has to beat out the existing starting point guard. Second, the coach is old school and emphasizes defense and half-court offense (Jonas's style is the fast break). Third, the new assistant coach, one Ryan Hartwell, creates some ethical dilemmas for Jonas -- then figures larger still in the plot as the book moves toward its conclusion. Fourth, the D2 scholarship is not a slam-dunk. Jonas must keep his grades up, as he is being monitored by the N.H. college coach who demands as much student as he does athlete.
The number of issues in the air, along with Deuker's patented talent for game description, will keep any reader interested -- especially reluctant readers who love sports. Though a few situations defy credibility a bit, SWAGGER is, all in all, another winner for Deuker.
When his family moves to Seattle from California, Jonah Dolan, a star point guard on his high school basketball team, must prove himself to a new coach and team. During a summer pick-up game, he meets six foot six inch Levi Rawdon. Levi, who is a gentle giant, is not strong academically and has difficulty remaining eligible to play basketball. He will become Jonah's best friend and teammate. At the pick-up game Jonah also meets Ryan Hartwell, a confident, twenty-something man, who befriends the boys and invites the pick-up team to his apartment for a party. The balance of the story and ensuing tragedy stem from this.
While adult readers will understand immediately that Hartwell is grooming the boys and will select the most vulnerable for abuse, younger readers may not immediately recognize the situation for what it is. When Hartwell appears at basketball practice practice and is introduced as the high school's new assistant coach, his motives become even more obvious. He slowly gains control over the team and over individual team members through his exploitation of their vulnerabilities. It is only after a tragic death that Jonah makes the decision to do what is right for others rather than for thinking only of himself.
"Swagger" is an easy to read book. It will appeal to youngsters who love basketball and understand some of the intricacies of the game. Carl Deuker writes in detail about positions and plays, things that will hold little interest for readers who are not basketball fans. Characters are realistic; the events they experience are relevant to today's youth. The one aspect of "Swagger" that I found troubling was Levi's handling of his abuse and the final resolution of his situation. Understanding that his choice is one abuse victims do make, nevertheless I would have preferred that Levi testified against Hartwell and helped remove him from society.
"Swagger" is a book that every parent should read and then discuss with their own children when the children are of an appropriate age to comprehend the details and nature of the story. The book treats the subject with discretion, but does not minimize the impact of abuse and its consequences.
Things veer off to the side for Jonas when his dad takes a new job which in turn means that Jonas has to transfer to a different high school. There, the young basketball player meets a coach who may not be all that he appears. Deuker is a master story teller and writer and he can make the most innocent and friendly and benign character have a very dark side.
Enter Levi, a young man with a plate full of his own issues. The only son and oldest of five, he lives a very insulated life of home and church. Levi's father is a preacher and Levi believes everything the man says. Levi is also very trusting and good hearted. He and Jonas become friends and Levi is the key to many secrets that connect him, Jonas and others. A dangerous person has entered their midst and that dangerous person is in a position to ruin lives.
It is plain to most if not all readers that something is seriously amiss here and that what is amiss is very devastating and very atrocious.
These two young men are left to face some extremely difficult decisions. The decisions they make will resound in the minds of readers long after the last page is finished..
And as for the abuse, it may as well not have happened for the little attention it got in the book. And I get that we're dealing with a teenage boy who isn't exactly observant, but I still feel that the situation should have been handled better. And that there should have been more of it in the book. We don't get to read about the abuse from the POV of the boy abused, and our narrator seems to hardly give it any thought.
And by the time you even get to the abuse in the book, the books is almost done and I'm crying tears of boredom from all of the basketball that I had to suffer through.
I don't know. The book was just a disappointment.
He makes friends with Levi, a religious young man who also plays ball. Levi is hiding something, and as the story progresses the secrets Levi hold get bigger as well. Deuker does a very good job of portraying a seemingly friendly coach with a very dark side.
My only quibble (and what kept this from being five stars for me) is that Jonas faces not one, but two critical choices. One is a cheat/don't cheat situation (which is underplayed in its seriousness, IMHO) and the other is the tell/don't tell Levi's secret. For a fairly forthright book, Deuker suddenly gets hazy about the "things" that Levi has been asked to do. As an adult, I was imaging something pretty grim. I'm not sure what younger readers would imagine, but it could run the gamut from "huh?" to pretty detailed. I don't know what Deuker was trying to say happened, but as the author, I wanted him to take a little more charge of both story lines.
All that being said, this is an easy book to recommend to sports-minded readers. I wasn't sure what was going on in some of the basketball game descriptions, but athletic readers would probably totally get it, and it didn't take away from the story. For readers who liked GYM CANDY, or those who have slightly outgrown Tim Green's FOOTBALL GENIUS and BASEBALL GREAT and UNSTOPPABLE, this would be a great choice.
About me: I'm a middle school/high school librarian
How I got his book: borrowed it from the library
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