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“Sometimes you didn’t know what you didn’t know,” Wes. –No Slam Dunk
No Slam Dunk
by Mike Lupica
AR Test, Good for Reluctant Readers
Wes Davies only cares about two things in life—his family and basketball. This year’s basketball season gives Wes the chance to be seen by college coaches. But a new teammate Dinero’s selfish play might get in the way of Wes’ goals of them becoming a real team. While Wes tries to navigate difficult teammates, he also worries about his father. Lt. Michael Davies has returned from Afghanistan with secrets and a growing drinking problem. Will Wes be able to overcome selfish teammates? Will he be able to reconnect with his distant father?
No Slam Dunk is a story that might seem very familiar to readers who are fans of Mike Lupica. This story mirrors Travel Team. Both books have the same age boys who love basketball, dads who have problems with alcohol, and a witty best friend. No Slam Dunk’s characters tend to fall flat as they are not fleshed out well. Wes’ mother and best friend are the stereotypical characters found in a book about family; a son who is passionate about a hobby or sport and wants his dad to be in his life, and a mother who loves her son and wants the best for him. While these characteristics are certainly not bad, they are not expanded in any detail, leaving the reader to see dull characters who are no different than any other character they’ve read about.
Although Mike Lupica’s talent as a sports writer is apparent, this novel’s storyline does not measure up to the reader’s expectations. The short chapters alternate between basketball and Wes’s life at home, which makes many of the book’s scenes feel rushed. Every other chapter focuses on basketball play after basketball play, which hinders character development. While Dinero and Wes’s relationship is shown as positive growth in both of their lives, it is one of the only relationships that is nurtured.
Wes’s father, Lt. Michael Davies, has just returned from Afghanistan, and he is dealing with PTSD, isolation, and alcohol abuse. Despite having a difficult time communicating with his father, Wes doesn’t seem to feel anger or any other strong emotions, which is unrealistic. The story looks at the struggle between Lt. Davies and his family superficially and does not dive deeper into how his drinking would truly affect his family.
Although the short chapters and simple vocabulary make No Slam Dunk a good choice for reluctant readers, those who do not enjoy or know about basketball will want to leave it on the shelf. Despite some superficial characters, young basketball lovers will enjoy seeing a character they can identify with.
- One of the men under Wes’s Dad’s command while they were in Afghanistan, describes the events that led to Wes’s Dad having PTSD. The scene is not graphic and lasts two pages. “He takes out the two Taliban guys operating it and climbs in back to where rocket launchers are. That was as far as he got before taking a bullet.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Wes’s dad came home from his second tour from Afghanistan and now has a problem with drinking. “He came home wounded this time, just not in the way that people think of a wounded soldier. And to make the pain go away, he drinks.”
- After Wes’s second game, he gets home to find his dad on his doorstep. He is acting funny, and after Wes’s mom arrives, she tells him, “Don’t you ever come to this house again after you’ve been drinking.” Later Wes and his mom have a conversation about his dad. She calls him a “happy drunk.”
- At the end of Wes’s game against the Rockets, his dad shows up extremely intoxicated and embarrasses Wes by yelling about the team’s play in front of the whole gym.
- While drunk, Wes’s dad yells at the end of a basketball game saying, “Throw my boy the damn ball!” He repeats this one more time.
- Wes’s dad tells his mom that she makes “a damn fine cup of coffee.”
- Wes and Dinero are about to play a rematch one-on-one game. Wes tells Dinero that there’s no way he’ll beat him again, and Dinero says, “since it’s Sunday morning, you better say a prayer, dude.”
By Hannah Neeley