Rucker Park Setup by Paul Volponi
It’s the championship game of the Rucker Park basketball tournament. Mackey and J.R. have dreamed of winning it since they were kids. But now Mackey is the only one with a shot at winning the legendary event, because a few weeks ago, J.R. was stabbed and killed on the Rucker Park basketball court. The very court the championship game is being played on.
The entire story of Rucker Park Setup is told during the championship game, with actions scenes of the game intercut with flashbacks and recollections of earlier events. It’s a clever device, and a successful one. Does the game have anything to do with J.R.’s death? Why does Mackey feel guilty?
If you’re looking for good contemporary realistic fiction, look no further. Rucker Park Setup is a fast-paced story with enough twists to keep the reader guessing (and turning the pages). As soon as I finished the book, I immediately wanted to reread it, looking for clues I had overlooked or fallen for the first time around. This would also be a great book to booktalk and recommend to reluctant readers. Mackey’s voice is conversational and very readable, and at only 149 pages, it’s definitely on the short side for YA fiction. It has basketball, friendship, and murder to hook readers from the very first page, and compelling plotting and writing to keep them reading.
The setting is the streets of New York City. So it is only to be expected that some of the characters and language are occasionally obscene, too. It adds to the realism of the book, but it’s also enough for some people not to give the book a try. Their loss.
I hesitate to say more, because I don’t want to give anything away. But, as in Black and White and Rooftop, Paul Volponi has written a thought-provoking (in a good way) story in which there are no easy answers, only mistakes too easily made.