The Hoop Con (Play the Game #1)

Scholastic. (Play the Game: Bk. 1). Mar. 2024. 288p. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781338840315.
Gr 4-6–This novel weaves together complex coming-of-age issues facing young people against the backdrop of basketball. Raam Patel, a sixth grade basketball superfan who loves to play, is ready for summer vacation; he and his best friend plan to spend the summer improving their skills in preparation for the summer Y-Ball tournament and in the hope of making the middle school team next year. The best part of training comes when Raam’s mother buys him a ticket to Hoop Con, an event where his all-time favorite basketball player will be running clinics. However, everything goes awry when Raam lets his temper get the best of him and becomes a social media phenom, but not in a positive way. Because of his embarrassment, and family issues at home, he ends up spending the majority of the summer with his favorite cousin in California. His cousin helps Raam find the inner strength to play again, and build his self confidence. This enjoyable novel includes specific vocabulary relating to South Asian/Indian culture, basketball, and social media. Without a glossary or in-text definitions, those not familiar with those topics may struggle to fully grasp events of the story.
VERDICT Lovers of basketball, especially fellow athletes, will devour this novel.

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