Rez Ball

Heartdrum. Sept. 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063160378.
Gr 10 Up–Nobody from the Red Lake Ojibwe reservation in Northern Minnesota has ever gone on to play basketball at a Division I college or in the NBA. Sophomore baller Tre Brun is committed to being the first. His dad and older brother Jaxon both are legends, and since Jaxon’s death in a car accident less than a year ago, Tre is feeling the pressure to excel. Graves strikes a balance between a broadly accessible portrait of teen experience—all-night video game tournaments, basketball practice, and sometimes out-of-control partying—with a pointed view of Indigenous life, including harassment by racist cops and ill treatment by white teams from Bemidji and Minneapolis, and yet all the comforts of hope, family, and tradition. An awkward friendship/not-quite-romance with emo girl Khiana nearly ends when she starts dating best friend Wes, an aspiring filmmaker who has been making a documentary about Tre. Everything comes together when Tre leads the Red Lake Warriors to the state tournament for the first time. A glossary defines several Ojibwe terms that appear in dialogue. In a concluding author’s note, Graves writes that while the story is fictionalized, it incorporates much of his own experience as a young Ojibwe growing up at Red Lake. Frequent teen drinking and occasional drug use make the novel more appropriate for high school. The novel is written at a level accessible to striving readers.
VERDICT Richly detailed and emotionally powerful, this gripping tale is highly recommended for libraries serving older teens.

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