The Assist: Hoops, Hope, and the Game of Their Lives

Neil Swidey, Author . Public Affairs $26 (358p) ISBN 978-1-58648-469-9

In this engaging book about Boston’s Charlestown High School basketball team, Swidey, a staff writer for the Boston Globe Magazine , explains that “[b]eing part of the Charlestown program was no guarantee that a kid would become a success.... But dropping out of the program dramatically increased the odds that he wouldn’t.” Head coach Jack O’Brien benefited from the team aside from its gaudy won-loss record. Unmarried and with a shattered family history, O’Brien found that the “rigid team structure... offer[ed] the trappings of home.” Like a concerned parent, O’Brien worked year-round to keep his kids away from the overwhelming daily wave of crime and bad influences and into the security of a college-educated future. Swidey masterfully shows over the course of two seasons the struggle O’Brien and his players face in maintaining success on and off the court. The coach observes the lives of his two star players, Ridley Johnson and Jason “Hood” White, go in very different directions after they land out-of-state college scholarships. Swidey expertly examines the slippery slope of Charlestown’s success, tying it into Boston’s disastrous busing scandal and an underwhelming legal system that perpetuates crime, while he builds narrative momentum and details his subjects with the touch of a skilled novelist. This is a prodigiously reported, compulsively readable book that readers (sport fans or not) will savor. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/26/2007
Release date: 01/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 373 pages - 978-1-58648-666-2
Open Ebook - 392 pages - 978-0-7867-2702-5
Prebound-Sewn - 373 pages - 978-1-60686-910-9
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