Review: The Final Four by Paul Volponi

the final four by paul volponi

Four players with one thing in common: the will to win

Malcolm wants to get to the NBA ASAP. Roko wants to be the pride of his native Croatia. Crispin wants the girl of his dreams. M.J. just wants a chance.

March Madness is in full swing, and there are only four teams left in the NCAA basketball championship. The heavily favored Michigan Spartans and the underdog Troy Trojans meet in the first game in the semifinals, and it’s there that the fates of Malcolm, Roko, Crispin, and M.J. intertwine. As the last moments tick down on the game clock, you’ll learn how each player went from being a kid who loved to shoot hoops to a powerful force in one of the most important games of the year. Which team will leave the Superdome victorious? In the end it will come down to which players have the most skill, the most drive, and the most heart.

Description taken from Goodreads.

THE FINAL FOUR was a lot of fun, in a way that I didn’t expect. I picked up this book because I loved CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander and SWAGGER by Paul Dertler and wanted another story along those lines. THE FINAL FOUR wasn’t like those books, but it was still great.

It all comes down to the final four, and this story is told in four different point of views from four very different characters. I can’t say I enjoyed every single part of this story, but it told these stories very well. I thought that each individual character was shown in a way that displayed their differences and how they got to the point that they were at. The story is broken up to the point where it’s almost hard to keep up with sometimes, but I still found myself enjoying it a lot. There are very few bad influences to this story even though it talks about college players, and it’s really about four kids trying to leave their past behind and shoot (intended) for a better future.

At times, this story is heartbreaking, and at times it’s heartwarming. There’s some decent trash talk in it and the elements of a fast-paced ball game are in it as well. I can’t say I’m entirely happy with how things ended, but the characters each grew a lot (especially Malcolm) as they really find out what they’re fighting for.

I think that kids who grew up on basketball books will really enjoy this story, and help them to come into the world of YA books. It’s fast paced enough to keep a reader occupied, and not hard to understand even for someone who’s not an avid basketball fan. Not my favorite story, but still very entertaining and a fun read that I would recommend. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 256


Rikers High by Paul Volponi: A Touching Story About a 17 Year Old Behind Bars

Martin Stokes could hold his own in the though New York CIty neighborhood where he grew up, but that’s nothing–nothingcompared to Rikers Island. Martin’s been in the Rikers Island jail for four months and counting, locked up for a crime he didn’t even mean to commit.

After his court date is delayed yet again, Martin gets caught in a razor fight between two warring inmates. Now his face will forever be marked with a jailhouse scar. But one good thing comes from this attack: Martin is transferred to a different part of Rikers, where adolescent inmates are required to attend high school. There he meets a teacher who genuinely wants to help Martin turn his life around. Will he see the light, or be consumed with getting revenge on his attackers.

This book has been getting popular with some of my friends lately, so I wanted to see what it was all about. I can definitely see the appeal to it.

Geez… that makes it sound like I didn’t like the book.

I did, and part of why I did is because of the premise of the story. A lot of jailhouse stories I’ve heard about, watched or read, the jail part of the book is:

  1. Just a background, a setting.
  2. Not the focus of the story.
  3. About adults coping with life like that.
  4. A documentary.

And I have yet to hear about a book with an idea like RIKERS HIGH. I mean–there’s books like MONSTER and IF I GROW UP, but there’s not a whole lot that I’ve heard about that’s focused on teenagers in prison.

And then there’s the book itself. The writing is good and I liked the feel to the story. Even though there was some talking involved, it felt like the story itself was still exciting. It wasn’t boring. I loved the way this book was told through Martin’s narration and how Rikers Island was set up. I enjoyed his journey and how he changed as a character during his time at Rikers High. I thought this was a great book.  4 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 256