Last Shot by John Feinstein
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Young adult novel, contemporary, sports
8th grade girl and boy as main characters
Rating: Okay, I LOVE basketball, but that is not the only reason I love this book. It has a lot of action, mystery, voice, humor, and two teen heroes!
Short, short summary: Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson are living their dream. They are both middle-school reporters who won the U.S. Basketball Writers’ Association writing contest. Their prize is to participate as working journalists at the Final Four games in New Orleans with their very own press credentials. They couldn’t wait! That was until they were at the Final Four and overheard a disturbing conversation between the star player, Chip Graber, for MSU and an unknown man. The man said that Chip had to throw the championship game against DUKE or his future career as an NBA player and his dad’s career as a college coach were over. Stevie and Susan Carol are two of the smartest and most clever eighth graders I have ever seen, and they figure out how to get past the security and to Chip’s hotel room door. Once they hear Chip’s explanation, they decide to work with him to stop the blackmail and save the Final Four. Put your seatbelt on, and get ready for the ride of your life. This novel takes you through some hairpin turns and onto a satisfying conclusion.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. This is a great YA book to use in the classroom or with your teen, especially to catch the interest of sports fans and boys! It is pretty “clean,” especially compared to some excellent, but edgy, YA novels on the shelf. Ethics is a HUGE topic in this book. Your students can write journal entries on their opinions of the actions of different characters in the book, and if they agree with their “ethics” or not. For example, the blackmailers obviously do not have good ethics. But do your students think Carol Ann or Stevie have to compromise their ethics (by lying) to get to the bottom of the story? Do your students think the main characters were justified? Questions and topics such as these will lead to interesting journal entries and class discussions.
2. BASKETBALL! If your students do not know much about the Final Four, this may be a research project for your students. Give students or groups of students different topics to research and present to the class. For example, groups can research: Final Four rules, past Final Four champions, how teams get to the Final Four, and so on. You can start with a KWL sheet–where students write what they know and what they wonder. When the research presentations are over, students can write down a few things they learned.
3. Since this book is a mystery-adventure, it has an interesting and, at times, complicated plot. Ask your students to chart the important/main plot points throughout the story–either as a summary, in a “cartoon” form with words and pictures, or as a list. It is important that students can summarize a complicated plot and comprehend the important parts of the story.
If you have used this book with your students or in your classroom, please leave a comment here and tell us about your experience.
If you have a suggestion of a book for me to read and review, please email me at email@example.com or leave a comment here.