This was not what I expected. Boys and basketball, yes, but not the story of friendship between Nasir and Bunny. YA has plenty of female friendship stories but tends to be lighter on the male version, Ribay has solved that problem. Nasir and Bunny grew up together; they live across the street, play ball, and live life. But when Bunny returns from the summer playing AAU ball and announces he’ll be attending the private school in the burbs, Nasir can’t help feeling betrayed. He’s ditching Nasir to live the good life and all so that he can win a state championship. Bunny’s decision to switch schools didn’t happen overnight. But he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend St. Sebastian- he’s already getting piles of college letters. The money he could make in the NBA or playing overseas would be enough to pay off his sister’s student loans and help save his dad’s bookstore. He’s got to look out for his family, and that meant making some changes.
Neither boy, despite them once being close, voices either of these feelings, and it changes their friendship drastically. Nasir won’t even talk to Bunny, and Bunny is feeling isolated in his new school. He’s dealing with being one of the few POC students and teachers who are surprised when he answers something correctly as if they expected him to not know because of where he lives. Although he gets along with his teammates, he doesn’t count any of them as friends. Nasir is feeling left out, and when his cousin Wallace starts in on Bunny and his betrayal, he can’t help but agree. Wallace isn’t exactly a great influence on Nasir, but he’s family. He feels a strong obligation to help him out- his dad’s in jail, mom’s not around, and he and his grandma are being evicted from their home soon. But it’s clear to the reader that Wallace isn’t interested in earning money the right way. It takes Nasir a while to catch on, and by that time, it’s too late.
The friendship between these two boys is beautiful to watch but also very frustrating. But, this is what makes it so authentic. Each boy misses the other, but there is an utter lack of communication that was hard to read- I don’t deal well with uncomfortable conflict. There were so many times I found myself tense with the decisions and consequences of these two boys, up until the very end. Dread followed me through most pages, but so did hope. With all that said, I cannot reconcile with what Nasir did to Bunny. In the end, I’m glad the two made amends, but I don’t know (as an adult) if I could be as forgiving as Bunny. Thankfully, for Nasir, he is.
Very engaging audio with heart-pounding basketball sequences makes this an easy recommendation. Put it in your sports section, but make sure your readers know there is much, much more to offer. Interspersed with the friendship and hard decisions of these two boys are the discussions of equity. Ribay does it without being preachy but also never letting you forget it should be a discussion.