Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Pena
“Real life always comes whipping back around at you like a boomerang. But right now there’s one last game to play. And Stickey’s right here. In the zone. Flowing. Every shot ripping through a nylon net and playing the same song. And it’s almost mean the way he does it, making people look so bad. So sad. So human. But this game is Stickey’s drug. It’s his stage. This court is Strickey’s home.”
Stickey plays basketball at Lincoln Rec in Venice (Los Angeles). And he’s a star on his high school basketball team. He is such a great player that he really does make other ballers look like fools. So he should be set, right? Set for a college scholarship and later the NBA.
But Stickey’s got more problems than any kid should have. His friend, Dante tells him, “‘That means three of em [foster homes/parents], plus your real momma, didn’t want your ass no more. They straight up gave you away like you was nothin. . . .All these people, Stick, they decided you wasn’t worth a damn thing.’” Add to this that Stickey has OCD and will do an action repeatedly until he senses that it ‘feels’ right.
Although he’s only seventeen, Stickey has acted the part of the troubled kid, even when people try to help him. He’s in trouble with the law, commits stupid and petty crimes. His mother was an addict and a prostitute. He’s tossed out of one foster home for his behavior, loses other placements through no fault of his own. A bright spot in his life is his bookish girlfriend Anh-thu. Although there’s no fake ‘she fixes him’ story here (Stickey maintains his thievery), she does believe in Stickey. And that’s the beginning of him wondering if there really is something worthwhile at the heart of him.
High school housekeeping: Ball Don’t Lie is a great book for seeing what it’s like to be ‘in the zone’ in a sport, “No more sunlight-glare sneaking through the open doors. No more waiting on a sorry sideline, watching. No more cleaning out a cut or coming up with a birthday game plan. No more thinking.”
It’s also a good book for following a kid who is trying to make it out of a troubled life. Because it is realistic, Stickey is not always sympathetic. He claims to care for his girlfriend, but is not the sort of boyfriend a girl would dream about. He has a very hard time talking about his emotions as well as showing them. He is often on the wrong side of the law, and this is going to cost him. The one thing that he can pour everything into is basketball. He just has to learn to be a contender in life.
I recommend this book to any teen as Stickey’s story is compelling and the writing is very good. For sports fans, this is a great choice. For basketball players, it’s an excellent read.