FICTION

Rivals

Amulet. Mar. 2021. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419748271.
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Gr 5-7–The start of a new basketball season ignites old rivalries for Carter and Austin. The boys are star captains of their town’s two middle school teams: Austin plays for Walthorne North, Carter for Walthorne South. The 14-year-olds, both white, once played pickup games together before increasing attention, and expectations at school and home made them wary strangers. Fueled by simmering resentment between the schools —North is wealthy, South is not—it isn’t long before the rivalry between them gets out of hand. Carter’s classmate and sports reporter Alfie (also white) covers the rising tensions; her character effectively embodies the media’s power and influence. Told in first-person narration, texts, social media posts, and Alfie’s radio interviews (similar to Greenwald’s Game Changer) this is a fast-paced cautionary tale condemning adults’ tendency to prioritize winning at all costs over allowing kids to simply enjoy the game. Scenes of action on the court are vivid and exciting but take a back seat to Austin and Carter’s struggles to cope with the burdens placed upon them while determining their own future. Give to fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander’s sports novels.
VERDICT Recommended for middle grade collections; a good choice for a community-wide reading initiative.

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