Stealing the Game is co written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld a duo that has collaborated on a few other books for young readers. This book however is their first novel aimed at middle grades and uses the sports theme as a way to get readers to explore other themes such has belonging, family issues, friendship and identity. This book features a wide array of nuanced characters which I found very appealing.
The kid is shy but well-adjusted teen who is going through typical early teen adjustments. He plays basketball and is a decent player but more than that he is a good kid. He struggles with communication and knowing when to speak up but over the course of the book he gradually emerges from his shell. Jax, his older brother has long been the star of the family, good at sports and academically and was well on his way at a prestigious law school. He is a good student but he keeps secret from his folks the fact that he likes to read and write comics.
His parents are serious law professionals and as parents they are very much of the helicopter variety and this makes him chafe at the level of control they want to exert. They schedule tutor time for him, bring brochures for schools and worst of all want him to quit his school team. Things are okay at school but a series of robberies begin to occur in the neighborhood. This coincides with his older brother's reappearance at home and he is acting very strangely to say the least. Kid begins to suspect the worst when his brother shows him bruises that he received at the hands of a local tough. Then out of the blue Jax proposes a hair-brained scheme to get money for a debt. He must make some tough decisions.
I liked the fact that he ventured out of his comfort zone and out of his neighborhood and in the process gained a different view of a classmate's life. Although towards the end things seemed to wrap up just a bit too smoothly leaving zero loose ends the conclusion was satisfactory enough for me.
This is one of those books where basketball is part of the narrative but if you are looking for a book where the kid hits the winning shot and then lives happily ever after then you may be disappointed. I recommend it for readers aged 12+.