Box Out Review

Box Out
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Tough issues abound in teenage life, and this book is filled with insightful, challenging situations to which teenagers can relate. John Coy's research into the teenage experience regarding sports, coaches, relationships, and decisions is obvious in the characters and plot of the novel.
Liam Bergstrom's life revolves around the basketball court, and he embraces the opportunity to play varsity ball after a teammate's injury. Coach Kloss tells him, "We're a tight team. If you ever have anything you need to talk about, come on down. My door is open." Liam is ecstatic! On his first big game day, he cannot believe he is wearing a Horizon High School varsity uniform. But when Coach comes into the locker room for the pre-game talk, Liam learns the one big difference between Varsity and JV: prayer. Though raised in the Catholic faith, Liam is not so sure the inclusion of prayer should be part of high school athletics.
Something else troubles Liam about Coach's behavior. Supposedly a believer in team basketball, the man clearly has favorites and disapproves of the style and attitude of the only black player on the team, Darius. When Darius quits, Coach and the teammates act like he was never really a team player, yet others do not receive similar treatment. Darius, however, maintains that Coach does not really respect the game.
When Coach and his teammates encourage (even expect?) him to attend weekly before-school Horizon Athletic Fellowship meetings, where prayer and expression of one's faith are foremost on the agenda, Liam becomes even more uncomfortable in his new role. The members wear HWJC bracelets (How Would Jesus Compete?), and some hypocritical players communicate a totally different opinion in front of other than they express to individuals. Coach, who was always willing to discuss any issues and concerns, assures Liam he has checked out the prayers, and all is legitimate. Frustrated, Liam eventually contacts an organization called Americans United for Separation of Church and State for guidance.
The author builds upon the conflicts on the court and in school to guide Liam to a difficult decision, one which broadens his definition of basketball and enables him to discover the courage within him to do what is right, not always what is easy.
Athletes will find the basketball details accurate and engaging. Non-athletes will understand the terminology and explanations based on the author's contextual information. All readers will be challenged to defend their positions on racism, prayer in schools, peer pressure, and team sports.

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