Friday, July 9, 2021

Review of "The Sixth Man," by John Feinstein

 Review of

The Sixth Man, by John Feinstein ISBN 9780385753500

Five out of five stars

Great modern example of YA sports fiction

 While this story adheres to the “winning the big game at the end in dramatic fashion” form of the YA sports fiction genre, it is very modern in the context. First off, it has females other than mothers in lead roles. So many of the classics of adolescent sports fiction have limited to no female characters. The main female character here is a strong personality named Christine and she is a no-nonsense reporter for the high school newspaper.

 Alex is a multi-sport star at his high school and the story opens with the start of the basketball season right after the end of the football season. Alex was almost able to lead his football team to the state title. In this case, there is dissension on the team, for at the first few practices, it is clear that Alex and his friend Jonas are much more skilled than their counterpart senior starters.

 The team does well, but really takes off when the golden boy Max arrives as a transfer. Like Alex, Max’s parents are separated/divorced and he lives with his mother. Both boys have strained to non-existent relationships with their fathers. This is also one aspect of the story that makes it very modern. Finally, it is not long after he arrives that Max reveals that he is gay. This sets off a dual confrontation, where the basketball team must stick together when they are to play for the championship and have to deal with anti-gay violence and smears.

 This is a great story, there is a lot of tension built up to the dramatic finish, Feinstein packs a lot of subtle and explicit action and social commentary into a sports story.

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