What would you do if you had the chance to be a reporter at the NCAA Final Four? For Stevie Thomas, it's more than a daydream. In John Feinstein's new novel, Last Shot, Stevie is one of the winners of a teen writing contest, and he's in New Orleans with a press pass, on assignment for the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association. Stevie's co-winner is a pretty and ambitious girl from North Carolina named Susan Carol Anderson, whose looks aren't the only thing unnerving him; the fact that she's a rabid Duke fan also rankles the loyal young Big East follower. Still, they have the run of the place, and Susan Carol has a knack for getting the most imposing of celebrities to talk, a plus when you're striving to get interesting copy on a short deadline.
Their enthusiasm and curiosity bring them more than they bargain for when, while snooping around the Minnesota State locker room, they overhear an attempt to blackmail MSU's star player into throwing the Final Four. Stevie and Susan Carol are faced with an important decision: they can either tell the adult reporters who are overseeing them or they can investigate the story on their own. What would you do?
For the two young journalists, the choice is obvious, but in order to get at the truth, they'll have to use a combination of teenage guile and subterfuge to escape their chaperone fathers and their reporter guides. They'll need to accomplish this while dodging loud sportswriters, crazed fans and most dangerous of all, the people behind the blackmail scheme.
A critically acclaimed sportswriter, Feinstein peppers his story with basketball jargon, realistic descriptions and sportscaster cameos. You'll feel as if you have a courtside seat at the SuperDome.
Last Shot is Feinstein's first entry into fiction for young people, and it's an impressive one. The story is intriguing, the dialogue snappy and the finale exciting. If you've got a kid who'd rather watch ESPN than eat, tell him or her to go read a bookóthis book.
James Neal Webb is living proof that white men can't jump. Copyright 2005 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2005 Fall
As winners of a writing contest, eighth-graders Steven Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson travel to the NCAA Final Four as journalists. In addition to meeting college basketball celebrities, the two also uncover a plot to fix the championship game. As the fast-moving mystery takes off, the book becomes the reader's own press pass to a behind-the-scenes look at the Final Four. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2005 January #1
When Stevie Thomas wins a sports writing contest and gets to cover the Final Four college basketball championship in New Orleans, he knows it's going to be the most unbelievable weekend of his life. And unbelievable it is, but in unexpected ways. Amidst the circus atmosphere at the Superdome--with the Blue Devils, Huskies, Coach K, Dick Vitale, and the clamor of hawkers, scalpers, and the best sportswriters in America--Stevie and his co-winner Susan Carol overhear a plot to throw the championship game. Veteran sportswriter Feinstein uses simple prose, lively dialogue, and authentic details of an event he knows well to recreate the pageantry of college basketball's big show. No little-guy-overcoming-the-odds story, this is a tale of celebrity, big business, and corruption as witnessed by two eager and innocent fledgling reporters who must decide what to do with their unexpected knowledge. A real treat for basketball fans young and old. (Fiction. 10+) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2005 April
Eighth graders Stevie and Susan, winners of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association's 14-and-under writing contest, discover a blackmail scheme for Minnesota State to throw the final championship game with Duke. Although the mystery is well plotted, the pace of the story gets bogged down in the descriptive details about the sportscasters at the Final Four. The average reader may not be quite so enthralled with the minutiae. Recommend it to readers who love basketball and they may then seek out John Feinstein's adult sports titles, a number of which are basketball related. Additional Selection. Ruth Cox Clark, Adjunct Faculty, University of Houston (Texas)-Clear Lake ¬© 2005 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 January #4
Sports and mystery get equal play in sportswriter and adult author Feinstein's (A Season on the Brink) novel set during a Final Four basketball tournament in New Orleans. Taking center court is 13-year-old Stevie, who-along with Susan Carol, another eighth grader-landed tickets and press passes to the weekend's games by winning a writing contest sponsored by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. The story starts slowly with some superfluous dialogue and a surfeit of detail about specific players, coaches, sports writers and announcers. Yet the pace picks up when Feinstein casts the two aspiring young sports journalists in additional roles of sleuths: the pair overhears a man blackmailing Chip Graber, the star player (and son of the coach) of the Minnesota State team to throw the championship game against Duke. Though they can't see the culprit during this conversation, it takes the youngsters no time at all to identify him as a member of MSU's faculty-ironically, an ethics professor. As Stevie and Susan Carol team up with Chip to uncover the intricacies of the blackmail plan-and to try to foil it-the author's plotting entails some fancy footwork that will keep readers on their toes. The minimal on-court action is nonetheless dramatic and briskly paced. Young basketball fans will most appreciate the caper, but mystery buffs will also turn these pages eagerly. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)FYI: The novel's final page announces a sports-oriented writing contest, the winner of which will receive a trip to the 2005 NCAA men's Final Four championship game. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2005 January
Gr 6-10-This action-packed mystery is set at the NCAA Final Four men's basketball tournament. Eighth-graders Steven Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson are aspiring journalists and winners of the U.S. Basketball Writer's Association 14-and-under writing contest. Their prize is a trip, with press credentials and reporting responsibilities, to the Final Four in New Orleans. While exploring the Superdome, they overhear a blackmail threat leveled at Minnesota State University's star player. Threatened with a falsified transcript that would disqualify him and his team, Chip Graber is pressured to deliberately lose the final game against Duke. Stevie and Susan Carol become resourceful sleuths determined to save Chip and to expose the scandal. Throughout the story, famous basketball personalities make memorable guest appearances, including spirited sports analyst Tony Kornheiser and irrepressible commentator Dick Vitale. References to real players and coaches mingle, almost eerily, with the fictitious characters. Feinstein shares his extensive sports expertise, smoothly weaving into the tale a wealth of background information about NCAA regulations, tournament traditions, recruitment and eligibility issues, and gambling. Although the action on the court is vividly described, this story also breaks new ground for teens, focusing primarily on the influential role of media in promoting college basketball. Readers will enjoy the rivalry and chemistry between outspoken but insecure Stevie and savvy-beyond-her-years Susan Carol, and their spunky determination to get the scoop. Mystery fans will find enough suspense in this fast-paced narrative to keep them hooked.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2005 February
Eighth-grade winners of a national writing contest, Stevie Thomas and Susan Carol Anderson, become all-access teen reporters to the NCAA Final Four basketball tournament held in New Orleans. After mingling with sportswriters, television personality Dick Vitale (awesome, baby!), and legendary Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, the wide-eyed teens wander about the massive Superdome. Outside the Minnesota State team locker room, they overhear a grey-haired man tell star Chip Graber to make sure he chokes against Duke or else. Horrified that the future NBA player is being forced to throw the championship game, the intrepid teens spring to action. Using their wits and circumventing NCAA rules (refreshingly, Susan Carol knows her hoops and is an assertive leader), the cub reporters bypass security and confront Chip, offering to help him escape the blackmail plot. As a web of betrayal is unraveled, the trio realizes no one can be trusted, and even Chip is unsure who is actually pulling the strings about his illegal transcripts and who will cash in after the fix This sports journalist's first young adult novel is set for publication just before March Madness 2005, the story's fast-moving pace will please basketball junkies. Mature readers might not buy into self-assured thirteen-year-olds pulling off brazen schemes, but how the teens outwit bumbling authority figures will appeal to the middle school crowd. Many red herrings and a vast array of adult characters popping up throughout the story perhaps makes this mystery too intricate for reluctant readers, but the insider's view Final Four basketball atmosphere is, well . . . awesome, baby!-Rollie Welch PLB $18.99. ISBN 0-375-93168-6. 3Q 3P M J Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.