Book Review: The Final Four, by Paul Volponi

final_four_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Being pushed around is an everyday occurrence on the courts of life and, most definitely, on the basketball court. This is particularly true in college level basketball during March madness of the NCAA tournament where it becomes a matter of survival. This spirit of survival is portrayed in Paul Volponi’s The Final Four when the Troy University Trojans are up against their toughest battle in the semi-finals against the Michigan State Spartans. The stakes are huge because whoever wins this game will move on to the finals and play North Carolina for the NCAA tournament championship. This heart-wrenching story showcases the influence of pride and how it can interfere with your relationships, the importance of courage on the court, and the value of loyalty to your teammates and coach.

Often times star athletes display extreme pride on and off the court. Malcolm McBride, the best college point guard in the NCAA, is a perfect example of a player who displays excessive hubris. This can be seen with his remark, “That’s why I wear eleven on my uniform. There are two number ones in a row” (14). Malcolm’s comment clearly shows his focus being only on himself at the expense of everyone else on the team. He regards himself not only as number one but also as a double one. His goal of reaching the NBA is the only thing that matters to him. As the author reveals more instances of Malcolm on and off the court, the reader begins to see how his rage increases, adding more fuel to the fire, when he exerts his emotions toward his teammates to convey that he is the only valuable player on the team. This excessive pride culminates with outrageous behavior when he targets a teammate, MJ (Michael Jordan), after Malcolm experiences a great tragedy in his life with his sister’s death. Malcolm’s relationships with his teammates set him up against his co-players due to his prideful nature.

In comparison, Michael Jordan is a benchwarmer who has low self-esteem and considers himself inferior to the other players. However, he has the willpower to change and the determination to grow. This can be seen when “MJ blocks out everything around him-Malcolm, the defenders, the crowd and even how much that one shot means” (232). As MJ’s skill level increases, his confidence rises, and he finds the courage to step up to the plate and become an exemplary basketball player. MJ’s self-esteem increases on and off the court and he has the courage to take a stand for himself because he is tired of being pushed around. This courage and tenacity propel MJ to become a leader and longer fear Malcolm McBride’s power on the court.

Furthermore, loyalty is shown when Malcolm McBride preservers through hardship, and reevaluates his behavior towards his family, teammates, and most importantly Michael Jordan. He learns the true meaning of trusting in one another rather than just himself. Also he is taught the importance of friendship and how much they endure for him. He also realizes that loyalty is a strong feeling of support or allegiance for someone. When he enters into the NBA he has to learn the importance of teamwork and reliability. Loyalty is expressed all throughout this book

The story illustrates that friendship and teamwork is far more important than just thinking about you. No matter who you are or what your situation, friends can and do make the difference in will make it a whole lot easier.

I really recommended reading this thrilling novel because, “Volponi has the rare gift of ratcheting up the intensity of the action off the court as well as on it” (Tim Green). Also this is a story of rivals battling it out and putting everything on the line to see who wins. It is truly a fight to the end. This book takes you through many twists and turns that deal with loss, humility, and truly learning how to be part of a team. And now, without further ado, the winner between Troy University and Michigan State is… Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

-Jay P., 7th grade

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