The Final Four

In YA Book Reviews on July 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm

The Final Four

Title: The Final Four

Author: Paul Volponi

Genre: Realistic Sports Fiction

Pages: 244

Published: 2012

Publisher’s Blurb (from the book jacket):

Malcolm wants to get into the NBA ASAP. Roko wants to be the pride of his native Croatia. Crispin wants the girls of his dreams. MJ just wants a chance. They have one thing in common: the will to win. Four guys meet on the court in a key game in the Final Four, college basketball’s answer to the NBA play-offs. As the last heart-stopping moments tick down on the game clock, you’ll learn how each of these players grew from a kid who loved to shoot hoops into a vital part of the most important games of the year. Which team will leave the Superdome victorious: the heavily favored Michigan State Spartans, or the underdog Trojans from Troy University? In the end it will come down to which players the most skill, the most drive and the most heart.

Summary in a Nutshell:

Four players at the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament struggle with pressures of tournament play and the expectations of society at large.

My Thoughts:

I chose this book to read because I was looking for a book that might appeal to boys in particular and reluctant readers in general. I didn’t expect to like it myself because I am just not a fan of basketball. But like it I did because it is well written and engaging. And, when all is said and done, Final Four was really not about basketball. It was so much more than that.

The book has a unique format, with chapters alternating commentary about the actual game in progress with flashbacks, journal entries, newspaper articles, and interviews involving four of the players, two from each of the competing teams (the Spartans and the Trojans).  Each chapter begins with a thought-provoking quote from a famous person (mostly from the world of basketball and with a bit of information about that person).

The author is truly a master in terms of making you care about each character. I took an immediate dislike to Malcolm. I wasn’t impressed with his trash talk and his goal to go directly to the NBA at the end of his first year in college. As the book progressed, I got his back-story and my initial reaction softened, and I came to understand what was driving him. Roko is on the opposite team and became my immediate favorite. He was originally from Croatia, experienced some major trauma in his life there, and conveyed his back-story in the form of a journal. His enthusiasm, positive attitude, and writing just grabs you. Then there is Michael Jordan who has also experienced hardship and is under constant pressure to live up to his namesake. You just have to appreciate his heart and passion for the game. The fourth character was Crispin who just wanted to impress his girlfriend. She was not worthy of his efforts. Just saying.

In addition to the interesting characters and story leading up to conclusion about which two characters ended up on the winning team, the reader will also become well informed about the way the NCAA operates with regard to the mega-bucks generated on the backs of student athletes. That should generate some interesting discussion.

Recommended for: 7th grade and up, especially fans of basketball

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Favorite Quotes:

“I have failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan (once cut from his high school varsity team as a sophomore)

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”

Related Link:

Paul Volponi – Notes from The Final Four

Other Opinions:

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