cover image Justin


L.J. Alonge. Grosset & Dunlap, $6.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-101-99562-4

One of two books kicking off the Blacktop series, written at a fourth-grade reading level, Alonge’s first novel taps into the conflicted voice and emotions of 15-year-old Justin Shaw, a talented African-American basketball player trying to find his way. After accidentally burning down a local corner store in a misguided attempt to impress some guys in his Bushrod Park neighborhood of Oakland, Calif., Justin tries to assemble a ragtag basketball team to play against a tough team from nearby Ghosttown (“They show up to your neighborhood like Vikings—ready to conquer, pillage, and plunder”). It’s a coming-of-age story with hard edges and heart, and Justin’s strained relationship with his estranged, alcoholic father is especially well-handled. Another player on Justin’s team stars in Janae, available simultaneously. Ages 12–up. (June)