Bouncing Back

Little, Brown. Oct. 2019. 304p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316524742.
Gr 3-7–At Carlos Cooper’s old school, he was a basketball star known as Cooper the Hooper. He has been living with his aunt and uncle for the past year, ever since his parents were killed in a car accident that left him paraplegic. Carlos is grateful for their care, but it is very hard to start a new school and especially hard being the new kid in a wheelchair. And the school bully seems to take special delight in taunting him. When Carlos’s aunt asks him to take a look at a wheelchair basketball league, he isn’t enthused but gives it a shot. The team is welcoming and supportive, and he likes the coach, who also uses a wheelchair. Just as Carlos is settling into this new game, the run-down gym that has been home to the team is shut down by the city. Without the gym, the team’s hopes for a state championship are dashed. There’s something fishy about the city’s move to condemn the building, so Carlos and his teammates do a little investigating on their own. Carlos is a likable, earnest, if preternaturally mature narrator. His transition from able-bodied star to wheelchair athlete is engaging. The issue of his grief is dealt with too quickly, and a side plot involving Coach’s health remains underdeveloped. The political machinations behind the closing of the gym and Carlos and the team’s investigation veer into “after-school special” territory.
VERDICT Enjoyable despite its few flaws. Perfect for middle grade fans of Mike Lupica.

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