by Jonathan LaPoma
Almendro Arts

"I’d have to keep going, deeper and deeper into the heart of my own insanity, going all the way in, in the hopes that someday I’d turn it into something brilliant. Something that would save the world."

James Lombardi and his friends run the streets, and, more importantly, the basketball courts of North Buffalo, a typical, working class neighborhood. Although spotlighting James, the story tells of the difficulties facing this group of boys as they navigate their junior high and high school years and reveals the consequences of their decisions. A love of basketball and an instant, on-court chemistry brings this varied group of boys together. They dream of winning a state championship and becoming neighborhood heroes, but first they’ll need to figure out how to survive tough, broken homes and the varied pitfalls of adolescence.

While the author’s book succeeds on many levels, LaPoma’s use of James, a mentally ill youth troubled by the destructive tendencies of his family, as the central character is laudable. His unique worldview gives the narrative an unforgettable flavor.

Fans of Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries will find many similar themes in this book. LaPoma is well-versed in the language and cadence of life in a large suburb and writes the story as you would hear it unfolding on those same streets. These boys are dealing with everything from bullying to basketball, drugs, sex, faith and favoritism. Lapoma does a good job catching the bravado and fears of this age. In addition, he records the internal struggles and confusion of his protagonist in realistic and abundant detail. This story is comparable to the slice-of-life stories made popular a few years ago in many contemporary literary journals. Readers who enjoy a coming-of-age tale with lots of introspection will likely find this book a good match.

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