Title: Shooting Star
Author: Fredrick McKissack Jr.
ISBN: 9781416947455
Pages: 273 pages
Publisher/Date: Antheneum Books for Young Readers, c2009.

As far as write-ups go, that was the bomb. He imagined Jayson straining not to do the happy dance. Praise from the seniors, love, or something like it, from McPherson, now this — Jayson’s swagger would only grow. Jomo imagined Jayson’s mom not being able to contain her excitement. She was probably calling everybody she knew and would tell people in public who her boy was. […]
And yet he couldn’t stop himself from going back over the phrase “the big knock on him.” It always came down to his size. […] Jayson got “Playing on Any Given Sunday.” He got dissed. Couple of inches and thirty pounds. That’s all he needed. He’d have instant swagger. (54)

Jomo and Jayson are best friends, playing for the same varsity football team as sophomores. But at the end of the season, while Jayson is getting calls from recruiters from various colleges, Jomo is told that he has two options; get serious or get out. Jomo starts a new training regimen, but it only does so much to increase his stamina, ability, and size. Getting tired of hearing “if only you were bigger,” Jomo is tempted to start taking the steroids that everyone else seems to be reeping the benefits from. His choices however lead to some major problems, and not just for his future football career.

Fredrick McKissack Jr. drafts a well written sports story in Shooting Star. The pressures Jomo faces seem real, and is reaction is understandable, becoming jealous of Jayson’s natural and effortless athletic ability and talent. Jomo is an all around good guy, doing well in school, maintaining a job, and working on a blossoming romantic relationship. This is the story of a kid who almost has it all, but then gets in over his head pursuing the rest of what he feels is too important not too have. He has a balanced home life, for even though his mom has moved out to pursue work and his dad flirts with alcoholism, his father and uncle provide a stable and positive influence on priorities. The one complaint I have with the novel is that the ending seems to wane, with events preventing readers from witnessing Jomo take full responsibility for his actions. But with such a compelling and engaging read, it’s a minor complaint. The cover is fascinating, and on the back Walter Dean Myers gives an endorsement that any author would be a fool to turn down, calling it a “fascinating look from the viewpoint of the student athlete.” I couldn’t agree more.

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