THE SIXTH MAN By John Feinstein


MMGM2the sixth man



By John Feinstein

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2015

The opening paragraph grabbed my attention:

“The last thing Alex wanted to do the night after losing the state championship was go to the holiday dance. But he had asked Christine Whitford to go with him weeks ago, and it had taken him weeks before that to work up the nerve to ask her. You don’t blow off your first date with the prettiest girl in school because you are sulking.”

I love the action of a good sports story. All action is working toward winning the game, tournament, or championship. This story is no exception. It follows Alex Myers as he begins basketball season. He is a freshman, and it is not very likely that he will make the varsity team. His coach has no patience with football players, and his start to basketball season is rough because he is two weeks behind the other players because he played in the championship game. Alex starts off with these hurdles to overcome: this is his first year at the school, his parents have divorced, and he is considered too young to play varsity.

Alex is a good sport and does as the coach asks him. He makes the junior varsity practices at 6:00 am. He rides his bike in the dark to do it. Alex is joined by another freshman basketball player who was also on the football team. They work hard and are moved up to varsity competition.

I enjoy the description of the sports action in these kinds stories. Here is an example:

“Wakefield took several dribbles right at Alex, then veered to his left. Seeing Alex come up to challenge him, he tried to drive past him. His dribble was too high, though, and Alex was able to slap the ball loose. Before Wakefield could turn to try to get it back, Alex tipped it toward midcourt, sprinted after it, and picked it up with nothing—and no one—between him and the basket at the far end. He took one dribble and heard the whistle—that incessant whistle. He stopped. Coach Archer was walking in his direction, hands out so Alex could toss him the ball. Which he did.

The story uses realistic language and attitudes. Alex has all the problems one would expect a freshman athlete to have. He rides his bike to school and basketball practice. He supports a gay team member, his coach dates his mother, and the team has to win a championship for the new coach. Team’s dialogue and the dialogue of the other characters is realistic. Alex makes friends that are not on his team. He encourages his girlfriend. He struggles in his relationship with his father. I enjoyed reading this story.

I give this story 5 stars out of 5 possible. A very entertaining read.

About Mary T Kincaid

Writer of fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages. Love the mental age where the rules of logic are suspended and there is a willingness to enter the story world no matter what your physical age.

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