Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Last Shot

Last Shot by John Feinstein

I have listened to John Feinstein on NPR's Morning Edition for years. When a young basketball enthusiast said this was one of the best books he had ever read I was intrigued.

Steven Thomas wins a writing contest sponsored by the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. His prize is a basketball fan's dream: tickets and press privledges to the NCAA's Final Four at the Superdome in New Orleans. When Steven arrives in New Orleans he meets the other contest winner, another 8th grader named Susan Carol Anderson. She is very tall, very poised and a devout Duke fan.

The two of them are reporting for their hometown papers and take their job as writers very seriously. They attend press conferences and look for stories while enjoying the excitement of the pre-game activities. On their way to an interview they overhear a plot to blackmail the star of the Minnesota State team. Gamblers want star Chip Graber to lose the final game for his team.

Steven and Susan Carol are determined to help Chip and investigate who is behind the threats. The mystery is convincing because of all the detail and background Feinstein includes. Well known personalities from the sports world make appearances in the story. Dick Vitale talks to the kids and "waves his arms." Susan Carol get an interview with Coach K from Duke. Sportswriter/commentator, Tony Kornheiser also has a cameo.

There are in-the-know references to to the real world of college basketball. Steven is bemused by the NCAA references to the players as "student athletes" as the low graduation rates of basketball players at some schools are well known.

As a librarian I appreciated the fact that Steven and Susan Carol won this contest based on their research and writing skills. They are talented writers but they still have to revise and edit and do the hard research on their topics.

This book has all the color and energy of the Final Four and will strike a chord with young basketball and sports fans. The setting of New Orleans and the Superdome was especially nostalgic and touching.

This book is billed as a "Final Four Mystery" and the publisher informs me another one, Vanishing Act, is coming out in August. It will be set at the US Open.

Last Shot is one of the books on the Texas LoneStar Reading list for 2006-2007. This list continues to be one of my favorites.

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