Blog Tour: Hooper by Geoff Herbach

From Geoff Herbach, the critically acclaimed author of the Stupid Fast series, comes a compelling new YA novel about basketball, prejudice, privilege, and family, perfect for fans of Jordan Sonnenblick, Andrew Smith, and Matt de la Peña.

For Adam Reed, basketball is a passport. Adam’s basketball skills have taken him from an orphanage in Poland to a loving adoptive mother in Minnesota. When he’s tapped to play on a select AAU team along with some of the best players in the state, it just confirms that basketball is his ticket to the good life: to new friendships, to the girl of his dreams, to a better future.

But life is more complicated off the court. When an incident with the police threatens to break apart the bonds Adam’s finally formed after a lifetime of struggle, he must make an impossible choice between his new family and the sport that’s given him everything.


Praise for HOOPER

“Lessons on small-town politics and what it means to be a good friend abound in this well-plotted work.” ―Booklist

“Herbach’s ability to expand the narrative from solid game play to confronting racial injustice is remarkable. No one here is perfect, and their failures make readers cringe yet root for success. Hoops and so much more.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“There’s much to love in this sports tale. Fast-paced play-by-plays vividly depict the speed and beauty of the game. Adam’s backstory is heartrending and with immigrant mistrust and nonviolent protests in the national spotlight, this is a timely and realistic teen drama and swish—nothin’ but net.” ―School Library Journal

“This sports/school/domestic drama checks all the boxes. What could be another boilerplate basketball novel benefits from a tight cast of well developed secondary characters who surpass their expected stereotypes.” ―Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Fresh, funny, thoughtful, subversive, and totally absorbing. Book of the year!” ―Robert Lipsyte, Margaret A. Edwards award-winning author of The Contender

“Funny, gut-wrenching, and spilling over with heart, Hooper is an uplifting breath of joy, and gives us all cause to be hopeful. I loved it!” ―Andrew SmithMichael L. Printz Honor and New York Times Bestselling author of Winger and Grasshopper Jungle

“Hooper is a slam dunk! A sports novel with incredible action and tons of heart. I challenge you not to fall in love with these terrific, flawed characters, and just try to put this one down once you start. Impossible.” ―Bill Konigsberg, Award-Winning Author of Honestly Ben

“Raw, funny, and deeply honest, Geoff Herbach gifts us a story about the messiness of life and the importance of talking about it—ultimately showing us how to not only trudge through it, but to soar.” ―Gae Polisner, author of In Sight of Stars and The Memory of Things

“Author Geoff Herbach has a remarkable ability to create characters who make us laugh and think, sometimes within the same sentence. Read Hooper and let your self be changed.” ―John Coy, author of Gap Life 

Hooper by Geoff Herbach is a sports contemporary YA book. It is a first-person narrative about Adam Sobieski Reed, a young boy originally from Poland, but adopted by an American woman. At the beginning of the book, Adam has already lived in America for a while. He has learned English and is doing well in school. He is also a basketball player.
 I haven’t read many sports fiction books. In fact, I think the last time I’ve read one was in middle school with the soccer fiction book, Tangerine. However, that isn’t to say that I didn’t like the book. I just know very little about sports and don’t really read books with a sports theme.
That said, Hooper isn’t a book about basketball.
It’s about a basketball player. A young man trying to navigate in a country he isn’t sure he’s a part of, in a family he isn’t sure he deserves, speaking a language that isn’t his first, and on top of that, undergoing what every person does . . . adolescence. In the midst of all that, Adam gets a chance of a lifetime.
He gets to be a part of a college-bound basketball team. A team that, if he keeps going, can set him up for a college scholarship and a possible professional career in the sport he loves.
What I really liked about this book is that Adam’s narration is similar to a second language English speaker. I say this not in a bad way. For some background, I took a TESL (Teaching English Second Language) class in college and have helped middle school children who had English for their second language. Much of what they said and did was similar to Adam’s own ways.
He is a boy from a different culture trying to understand the new one he has been placed in.  He’s not sure about certain sayings or customs and will just continue agreeing with something even though he may look strange to others. It’s the fact he doesn’t want to seem stupid that he does this. It’s a type of mask in order for him to connect with his peers in a country he is unsure of.
I really liked that.
It was difficult to read sometimes. The prose is written in a way that makes you see the world as he sees it and speak the language as he does. It’s not broken English, but there are moments where you will feel slightly disjointed while trying to determine what’s going on. This way of narrating really makes his character more interesting. Though, as a reader reading for fun, it can be jarring and may take time to understand.
That said, the book is a good one. It’s about acceptance and finding a family. It’s about realizing that everything you go through doesn’t make your life miserable, it makes you who you are and what you do with that is what matters. These things are important lessons and to put it in the narration of Adam’s story makes it that much more interesting. This, I would say, would appeal to both the sports lover and the child trying to navigate in a country that they are trying to adopt and be adopted in.
If this book was around while I was still volunteering in that middle school ESL class, I would have mentioned it for the teachers. I would have suggested it to some of the children. And now, as I’m thinking of one day getting that TESL certification and volunteering again, I have a book that I would recommend.
Final Rating: 4/5
Geoff Herbach is the author of the award winning Stupid Fast YA series as well as Fat Boy vs the Cheerleaders. His books have been given the 2011 Cybils Award for best YA novel, the Minnesota Book Award, selected for the Junior Library Guild, listed among the year’s best by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association and many state library associations. In the past, he wrote the literary novel, The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg, produced radio comedy shows and toured rock clubs telling weird stories. Geoff teaches creative writing at Minnesota State, Mankato. He lives in a log cabin with a tall wife.
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