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FLASHBACK FRIDAY (10): THE FINAL FOUR by Paul Volponi
Mar 28th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

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To learn more about Flashback Friday, check out FICTION FARE

11699202The Final Four by 

Pub. Date: March 1, 2012

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Buy it here: Barnes & NobleAmazon, IndieBound

Author’s website

From Goodreads:

Four players with one thing in common: the will to win.Malcolm wants to get to the NBA ASAP. Roko wants to be the pride of his native Croatia. Crispin wants the girl of his dreams. M.J. just wants a chance.March Madness is in full swing, and there are only four teams left in the NCAA basketball championship. The heavily favored Michigan Spartans and the underdog Troy Trojans meet in the first game in the semifinals, and it’s there that the fates of Malcolm, Roko, Crispin, and M.J. intertwine. As the last moments tick down on the game clock, you’ll learn how each player went from being a kid who loved to shoot hoops to a powerful force in one of the most important games of the year. Which team will leave the Superdome victorious? In the end it will come down to which players have the most skill, the most drive, and the most heart.

My Review:

For those who follow me on Twitter and Goodreads, it’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Paul Volponi’s. I became intrigued by his work when RESPONSE received the Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Honor in 2010. After that, I devoured his novels and dubbed Paul the King of Urban YA Fiction.THE FINAL FOUR is one of Paul’s finest novels. Volponi writes about March Madness, the time when the best college basketball teams play for the NCAA Championship. It’s huge money, huge exposer, huge pressure. Volponi tells the story of two teams battling in the Final Four through the eyes of four players. Interspersed are newspaper and TV interviews, commentary. One of the characters is Michael Jordan-imagine what it must be like to love basketball, be named after one of the best players to ever play in the NBA, and always having to deal with being compared to your namesake: THE Michael Jordan. Another character is Malcolm McBride, a young man who’a nickname is “One and Done” because he’s only playing one year of college ball until he’s eligible to enter the NBA draft. Malcolm’s outlook on life has definitely been shaped by poverty and the horrible experiences that have plagued his life. Crispin Rice is a character I really enjoyed, a leader for sure. But his life isn’t as storybook as the media makes it out to be. My favorite character is Roco Bacic who survived some horrific experiences in Croatia to come to the US and fulfill his dream of playing basketball. Some of his story is told through a personal journal that captures unforgettable moments of terror.
The reader becomes immersed in the players’ lives on and off the basketball court. The novel is rife with raw emotion, tragedy, and triumph.
There were several passages where I shook my head in awe. Even if you rarely on never read realistic fiction, THE FINAL FOUR should be your first. Get swept away in March Madness.
I highly recommend this novel for young men – seventh grade and up – who are reluctant readers. THE FINAL FOUR may very well be just the novel to inspire a love for reading

The Final Four By Paul Volponi
Mar 28th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

THE FINAL FOUR, by Paul Volponi

Ah, March Madness- the NCAA Basketball Tournament that has basketball fans and university graduates following their alma maters to see what will happen with their teams. Now we’re down to the FINAL FOUR – Kansas, Ohio State / Kentucky, Louisville http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/basketball-men/d1/2012

I’m a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison – born a Badger fan, will live a long life, God willing, as a Badger fan. The truth is that I only attended one UW-Madison basketball game (football’s my sport), and that was many years ago. But still, if my “team” were in the tournament, I would most likely get updates and feel the familiar school spirit. No matter how many years it’s been since graduation, school spirit gets in your blood.

THE FINAL FOUR by YA award-winning author, Paul Volponi is a must read for anyone who wants to get a front row view of what life might be like for college basketball players who make it into the NCAA Final Four. Paul did an incredible job describing the controversy connected to what players are allowed to receive (or not receive) as perks for their “labor” while universities and the NCAA reap in millions and millions of dollars from the tournament. Trust me, it’s an eye-opener!

Side note: Young adult athletes who will be playing any NCAA sport – this novel is important for you and your parents to read. With lots of intense action and description, it’s a fast read and cautionary glimpse into college sports.

Here is my review of THE FINAL FOUR as posted to Goodreads and Amazon:

For those who follow me on Twitter and Goodreads, it’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Paul Volponi’s. I became intrigued by his work when RESPONSE received the Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Honor in 2010. After that, I devoured his novels and dubbed Paul the King of Urban YA Fiction.

THE FINAL FOUR is one of Paul’s finest novels. Volponi writes about March Madness, the time when the best college basketball teams play for the NCAA Championship. It’s huge money, huge exposer, huge pressure. Volponi tells the story of two teams battling in the Final Four through the eyes of four players. Interspersed are newspaper and TV interviews, commentary. One of the characters is Michael Jordan. Imagine what it must be like to love basketball, be named after one of the best players to ever play in the NBA, and always having to deal with being compared to your namesake: THE Michael Jordan. Another character is Malcolm McBride, a young man who’a nickname is “One and Done” because he’s only playing one year of college ball until he’s eligible to enter the NBA draft. Malcolm’s outlook on life has definitely been shaped by poverty and the horrible experiences that have plagued his life. Crispin Rice is a character I really enjoyed, a leader for sure. But his life isn’t as storybook as the media makes it out to be. My favorite character is Roco Bacic who survived some horrific experiences in Croatia to come to the US and fulfill his dream of playing basketball. Some of his story is told through a personal journal that captures unforgettable moments of terror.
The reader becomes immersed in the players’ lives on and off the basketball court. The novel is rife with raw emotion, tragedy, and triumph.
There were several passages where I shook my head in awe. Even if you rarely on never read realistic fiction, THE FINAL FOUR should be your first. Get swept away in March Madness.
I highly recommend this novel for young men and women – seventh grade and up – who are reluctant readers. THE FINAL FOUR may very well be just the novel to inspire a love for reading.

To learn more about Paul Volponi and his other novels, visit his website at: http://www.paulvolponibooks.com/

Take Five With The King of Young Adult Urban Fiction – Paul Volponi
Aug 16th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

YA Urban Fiction Novelist, Paul Volponi

 

Award-winning author, Paul Volponi=

 

Heart-stopping, powerful, exceptional, and true-to-life! These are just a words that describe the novels by The King of YA Urban Fiction, Paul Volponi.  Volponi’s YA novels are: Rikers High, Response, Hurricane Song, Rucker Park Setup, Rooftop, Black and White, Homestretch, The Hand You’re Dealt and in May, 2011 Crossing Lines described by Volponi as a YA novel “about a macho football player whose sister’s best friend decides he needs to wear lipstick and then a dress to school.”  What’s it like to walk in someone else’s shoes? Can’t wait to read Volponi’s characters’ perspectives and the lessons learned!  In 2012 The Final Four will be published.  It’s “about four players at the Final Four of the NCAA Basketball Tournament (a political and social look at that event and its effect on players’ lives.)”  The conclusion to Black and White will be published by Viking – pub. date to be announced.

I hope EVERYONE reads Volponi’s books, especially teens and educators, and our politicians could learn a few things from him too! He opens windows to society and urban youth that few have the guts to see, let alone write about.  I’m certain Volponi has shared only a small part of what he has seen and experienced through the years as a former teacher for incarcerated teens at Rikers and by teaching in a drug day-treatment center.

I personally have never met Volponi, but he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who walks around seeing himself as a hero or even the type of guy who lives to be thanked or for that matter special or any different than the rest of us.  But based on everything I have read I am certain he has made a tremendous impact on young adults and helped quite a few on the sometimes perilous journey of growing up.  

Here’s what think. Volponi’s work as an author and teacher changes lives. He gives readers a gift and it’s up to us to decide what to do with it. Do we walk away, maybe tell others what powerful books he’s written, or do we do something in this world, big or small, to make it a little better for someone else? – Ultimately that’s what Volponi’s saying. Life can be really crappy (big time understatement) but what are we going to do to change it? What’s truly valuable to you?

WIN:

I won’t forget these books and in honor of this interview I am offering readers the opportunity to enter to win one Volponi novel – your choice of one of the eight pictured below.

Easy to enter:  1.  Comment on this blog piece.  AND/OR  2.  Post it or RT on Twitter or Facebook (I do my best to keep track, but if you can let me know, it’s very helpful and a guarantee that you’ll be entered!)  AND/OR 3. Share which Volponi novel is most interesting to you and why.  Deadline for entry is 8:00 PM CST Tuesday, August 31, 2010

To learn more about Paul Volponi, his novels, and to read excerpts, please visit his website at:  http://www.paulvolponibooks.com/

Q & A:

1.  Q:  In all your books you do an excellent job portraying the complexity of adults.  They are users/abusers/bullies/exploiters, but also role models/leaders/mentors.  Ultimately, what do you hope young adults and adults will draw from these portrayals and why?

PV-     I write what I see in real life. I suppose the reader probably sees these characters in types, someone they can match up to in the world around them, inside of their own lives. I think it’s good practice for them to fit themselves into those situations in my novels, thinking what they would do, how they would act themselves—like a practice class in conflict resolution.

2.  Q.  I was struck by the observation that each one of your books highlights how one simple decision can greatly alter the life of not just the one making the choice, but those around him.  Often the young adult doesn’t recognize how his choice would lead to such a horrific path of destruction or in some cases a positive change.  How can other young adults learn from these situations and hopefully avoid the destructive ones all together?

PV-     Decisions are part of all of our lives. The characters show the impulsiveness of many of our teens—it has to happen today for me—right now. Probably a deep breath and a long look in many directions would serve for better decisions. But things happen fast on the streets. The stories are a reflection of that, and the pressure on our teens to succeed in some form—legally or illegally.

3.  Q. Your books reflect a clear and accurate picture of racial tensions and prejudices in real settings like Rikers, the Metrodome in New Orleans during Katrina, and in schools, which I believe will surprise many of your readers. Change is extremely slow and positive action is the key.  Politicians often fail.  So given this perspective, what would you like to see young adults and adults DO to improve this dire, dismal relationship among races.

PV-     I don’t have answers. I’m not that smart. I just try to hold up a mirror to the society that I see. Maybe one of the readers will succeed in finding answers for us all one day.

4.  Q.  Another observation is that your books clearly show that money and material things are nothing in comparison to the love, respect, support of family, but that our society places a greater value on the material than relationships.  What advice do you have to give young adults to keep the WANTS in perspective when they’re inundated daily with newest and greatest. 

PV-     Unfortunately, Nike does a better job motivating our kids than most school systems. It’s a hard shadow to shed. But I think teens do see the value of simple things (basically because they don’t have a lot of money and a good time to them can just be sitting on the stoop talking or hanging out in the park) The TV is just barking at them all of the time to say they can be something better, more stylish. I hate advertisers.

5.  Q.  Everyone faces difficult moments.  If you could give something – either an small object or a piece of paper with words written on it – for a young adult to carry around in his pocket or wallet and pull out when he doesn’t know what to do, what would it be or what would it say and why? 

PV-     Teens make great protagonists in novels because they act NOW, driven by passion. However, that’s often a problem in real life. I would send them out with a note in their pockets that says—If what you want to do or say is the right thing, it will be good tomorrow as well. So wait for tomorrow to do it or say it. —Of course, who calls timeout in life to read notes before acting?

 

Rikers High

 

Rucker Park Setup

 

Black and White

 

Rooftop

 

The Hand You're Dealt

 

Homestretch

 

Response

 

Hurricane Song

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