Jayson Barnes’ nickname on the basketball court is Snap, because he moves so quickly when stealing the ball. But when his mother dies, he begins stealing in real life to hide the fact that he’s living alone. He gets away with taking small items from the corner store, but eventually he needs new basketball shoes and tries to lift a pair from Foot Locker. Finally caught, he's placed with the Lawtons, a wealthy family on the other side of town. All at once, Jayson has a new school, a new family and, worst of all, new teammates. Without his old team, which was sure to be the best in the league, how can Jayson hope to make it to the tournament?
There’s a reason Mike Lupica is one of the most popular sports writers for children: The basketball scenes in Fast Break, though acted out by characters in middle school, are as riveting as watching a Final Four game. Jayson’s passion and talent are treated as seriously as if he were already a professional player, which will resonate with readers who understand his commitment to a sport. Besides the basketball games, the strongest moments are between Jayson and his foster mother, Carol. Jayson’s wariness and Carol’s warmth are believable, and their gradual bond is touching. While the provided age range is 10 and up, independent readers as young as 8 could read the book without much trouble.
Though somewhat formulaic, Fast Break is heartfelt and fun, especially for young sports fans.