The people of Walthorne love their basketball—and one of the things they love most is the special rivalry between the Walthorne North Middle School Cougars and the Walthorne South Middle School Panthers. As the season begins, two star players are feeling the heat: Austin Chambers, captain of Walthorne North, worries that he’s not good enough to live up to his father’s legacy, while across town, the brilliantly talented Carter Haswell, captain of Walthorne South, is already under pressure to get a scholarship that might ease his family’s financial stress.
While both boys do whatever they can to make sure their team wins, Alfie Jenks, a school sports reporter, discovers that behind-the-scenes scandals are just as much a part of youth sports as on-the-court action. When she blows the story wide open, the whole season is jeopardized.
Younger readers will enjoy reading the chat boards and text messages, since they are very fluent in that type of communication. As an adult, I would have liked to see the dad's drinking dealt with a bit more effectively, but it is handled in an age appropriate way.
Sports books are hugely popular in my library, and Rivals is a good addition to thought provoking sports titles like Harkrader's Airball, Heldring's My Life as an Eighth Grade Benchwarmer, and Robert's Nikki on the Line. Greenwald writes compelling sports fiction with serious social messages, but don't miss his humorous books with main characters like Charlie Joe Jackson.