The Fifth Quarter: Hard Court is one of those sequels that I feel is better than its predecessor, which is saying something because I very much enjoyed book 1. In this book, Lori finds herself facing some new situations. Now in sixth grade, she and her friends are getting older and some are developing new interests and spending more time apart. Her dad is going to go back to work for the first time since she was born, and her mom is going to coach her rec league basketball team. Plus, she and her friend Elyse are growing their skills at basketball camp. There, their coach calls them the "Dream Team," with Lori being more offense-minded and Elyse more a defensive specialist. They still predominantly play during the fifth quarter for their middle school team, but Elyse gets more chances to get into actual games. This situation causes Lori to have some hurt feelings and jealousy.
What I think pushes this book beyond the first one is the way it shows the dynamics between various relationships in very detailed and realistic fashion, warts and all. Lori's parents have their arguments over money, work, and their parenting roles. Lori has issues with her friends, parents, and little siblings. Also, a good portion of the book involves flashbacks to Lori's mom's childhood, so we learn about her own highly competitive nature as well as her strained relationship with her father and step-sister.
Looking back, I gained insight into how she pushes Lori and herself to succeed. Getting to see a family reunion at the Passover Seder brings things full circle, as we get to see the aftermath of her childhood and how relationships turned out over the decades.
And I have not even mentioned the game-play, which is also a major aspect of the book. The various scenes of basketball are well paced, exciting, and dramatic. I really appreciate that there is no magical transformation, that Lori still has her struggles , even with extra coaching and attention from her mother. Some of her struggles even come from that very same coaching and her mother, which is both ironic and apt. Her mother pushes her to succeed and have a killer instinct, but she also might be pushing a bit too hard and also rehashing trauma from her childhood. This seemingly simple tale is actually pretty complex and imbued with nuances.
I love a good scrappy underdog tale, and this graphic novel is that as well. It shows that with effort and practice that there can be some success and growth, even if it's still not all sunshine and roses. Plus, as a parent, I really appreciate the vivid portraits of the adults as well as the children. There was so much I could relate to, and I desperately hope that this series will continue. It is simply superb.
|I have this same exchange at least three times a day with my own kids.|
Mike Dawson created this book. He has written and drawn more than a few graphic novels over the years, including Freddie & Me, Angie Bongiolatti, and Troop 142.
He also has done a lot of graphic nonfiction and essay work, including the collection Rules for Dating My Daughter and plenty of comics for The Nib. He speaks about his work on this book as well as other topics in this interview.
The reviews I have seen about this book have been largely positive. Kirkus Reviews summed it up as "Buoyant and breathless, scoring on several levels."It currently has a 4.4 (out of 5) star rating on Goodreads.
I read an advanced digital copy of the book, and it will published in July.