Hooper – Geoff Herbach – Katherine Tegen Books – Published 20 February 2018
For Adam Reed, basketball is a passport. Adam’s basketball skills have taken him from an orphanage in Poland to a loving adoptive mother in Minnesota. When he’s tapped to play on a select AAU team along with some of the best players in the state, it just confirms that basketball is his ticket to the good life: to new friendships, to the girl of his dreams, to a better future.
But life is more complicated off the court. When an incident with the police threatens to break apart the bonds Adam’s finally formed after a lifetime of struggle, he must make an impossible choice between his new family and the sport that’s given him everything.
It is going to be hard to put the magic of this book into words. What at first seems to be a simple tale about a boy who plays basketball is actually a richly detailed and poignant story of family, belonging, racial injustice, finding home, and settling into the person you were meant to be. Hooper, with a style all of its own, captures these timely themes in an original and approachable way.
“Basketball will be your passport.” Adam doesn’t exactly understand what that means. After all, he already has a passport from when Renata adopted him and brought him from Poland to his new home in the USA. But he does love basketball. Loves the freedom he finds only on the court. Loves the way it silences the anger and painful memories. As his basketball skills start to give him new opportunities on the court, Adam must balance these with the challenges he faces off the court. And maybe, through it all, he will discover a home, family, and friends, and finally a place where he belongs.
Hooper is a timely, addictive, and powerful book. The first thing that struck me was the clarity and uniqueness of Adam’s voice. Herbach’s writing immediately conjured for me the voice of this 16-year-old boy, with slightly faltering English, and a unique view of his world. Through his adventures of the next few months, Adam’s English improves, as does his understanding of social situations, how others view him, and how he can influence this.
Hooper highlights the importance of relationships: friendship, family, romantic relationships, team cohesion, and that incredible feeling that you belong. Through each of these relationships – with his friend Barry, with his adopted mother, with his new and old teammates, with crush/friend/more Carli Anderson – Adam learns something about himself and about others.
I didn’t want to put this book down. There was just something that captured me. The short chapters, awesome chapter titles, and Adam himself made this a book that was all too easy to love. But it continually surprised me, first with how much I enjoyed it and also with the many layers that are continually added to the story. Racial prejudice and injustice become important themes in the story, as Adam learns the power of one voice and the power of many voices. So too, bullying, violence and how to control these situations are timely subjects. And of course, the themes of accepting others, understanding and celebrating difference, and learning to work together are neatly woven throughout the story. Never preaching, but, as Adam’s friends do for him, gently showing.
Okay, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this book justice. No words can fully express how this book surprised and enchanted me, captured my attention, and impressed me with its unique character voice, portrayal of topical themes, and how it entwined all this in a highly readable book about a brave young boy and his love of basketball.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Genre: Contemporary, Sport
Themes: Sport, basketball, adoption, racism, racial injustice, friendship, teams, family, bullying, belonging, Poland.
Reading age guide: Ages 13 and up.
Advisory: Coarse language, sh** (60), pi** (7). References to alcohol addiction. References to violence.
Published: 20 February 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 336 pages.