Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up

Chronicle. Oct. 2023. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781797215617.
Gr 5-8–When Rory’s dad moves them to Cincinnati to coach college basketball, Rory meets Avery, and they hit it off right away. Avery’s father also coaches a college basketball team, which just happens to be the biggest rival of Rory’s dad’s team. While college basketball rivalries can run hot, the girls discover their fathers knew each other back when they were the girls’ ages and have an even deeper grudge. How can they maintain their new friendship when the divide between their families runs so deep? Very loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, this story of friendship, forgiveness, and most of all, basketball, is a quick read that will connect with readers whether they are sports fans or not. The book is told in the alternating points of view of Abby and Rory but with some interspersed chapters from their fathers’ perspectives from the early 1990s. As the girls grow closer in friendship and navigate middle school, they discover more about what tore their fathers apart way back when. There are a ton of teams and basketball superstars referenced in the book; some will not know every player, but a seasoned fan will enjoy the nods to the greats, both recent and past. The pacing is quick, and readers will not be bored with the family/friend drama and the basketball action. Abby and Rory are well-rounded characters with their flaws who come into their own as they realize how much one decision can change their whole lives. The theme of forgiveness explored with their fathers is an especially touching aspect of the novel.
VERDICT A worthy purchase for sports fans and any reader interested in friendship stories.

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