HALF-COURT TRAP

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Nigel can’t quite let go of Denham’s comments about his weight from the last game they played against one another in summer league, but now the two are playing on the same team for fall ball. Many of Nigel’s body insecurities are rooted in his home life—with a father who insensitively conflates criticism of his body with support for his game—but his grudge-holding and need for revenge quickly become Nigel’s and his team’s biggest obstacles to success. Denham’s home life isn’t easy either, as his parents’ separation starts interfering with Denham’s ability to find stability off the court. Nigel’s initial callousness about this situation may make him less sympathetic as a protagonist, but Denham’s continued taunts are hurtful, even if unintentionally; in this, heronJones reveals the ugliness of insecurity in ways that can be especially rewarding for boy readers, who are less frequently asked to perform this sort of nuanced emotional labor. Nonetheless, everyone can tell both young Black athletes are tremendously talented—but it’s also hard to ignore how tumultuous their relationship is and how Nigel’s growing pettiness, in particular, negatively impacts everyone on the team. When an on-court skirmish ends their team’s season with injuries, enough is enough.

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