Rummanah Aasi
  Throughout my years of being in English classes, I was always advised on two cardinal rules on writing: 1. Write what you know and 2. Show don't tell. Paul Volponi beautifully captures these two rules in his novel entitled Rucker Park Set Up. According to his official website, Volponi got his inspiration for writing Rucker Park Set Up from his passion of playing street ball:

I often say that I grew up in New York City, but I think the real truth of the matter is that I grew up on a basketball court, because I learned so much there. The court I grew up on was a lot like a war zone, with nicknames such as “Pirate” and “Snake” for some very rough players. But in this mix of aggression, anger, stubbornness and fortitude, exists a real brotherhood.

Coupled with his passion of playing ball and a news story where a player was murdered on the court he was playing, Volponi began writing his action packed and thought provoking novel.

Description: Mackey and J.R. have been best friends since fifth grade. They both have big dreams in winning the Rucker Park Street Ball Championship, which they believe will help pave their road to play in the NBA. Unfortunately, J.R.'s dream is cut short when he is murdered on the basketball court. Now, Mackey feels responsible in J.R.'s death and believes that J.R.'s father knows that he is somehow involved in the murder. Did Mackey kill J.R. in order to full his dreams? If not, then who did and what will Mackey do about it?


Review: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Rucker Park Set Up. The plot was fast paced and it never slowed. All of the action takes place on the basketball court where J.R. was killed, yet the action did not sacrifice the back story of J.R. and Mackey's friendship nor Mackey's guilt of what happened to his best friend. J.R. and Mackey's relationship is shown in Mackey's painful flashbacks. In addition to Mackey's point of views, there are other characters such as J.R.'s father, and the opposing two coaches also get their own chapter. Volponi's description of the game is so vivid that I felt like I was sitting on the bleachers watching the game unfold right before my eyes. I kept turning the pages to find who killed J.R., which is revealed in the last pages of the book and incidentally the last few minutes of the game. I really liked the unresolved ending, which made the book realistic and will keep readers debating on how well Mackey dealt with his best friend's death and if he could ever be forgiven. A must read for reluctant readers and for those who enjoy sports, especially basketball.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language throughout the book and a scene of violence, which helps sets the tone of the story.

If you like this book, try: Black and White by Paul Volponi or Monster by Walter Dean Myers   
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