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Justin
Cover of Justin
Justin
Blacktop Series, Book 1
by LJ Alonge
Borrow
An action-packed basketball series from author LJ Alonge set on the courts of Oakland, CA.
Justin has a list of goals stashed under his mattress. Number 1 is "figure out life plans." Number 5 is "earn Zen Master rating in WoW." Nowhere on that list is "play the crew from Ghosttown," but that's the type of trouble that always seems to finds him. 
The debut title from LJ Alonge's new basketball series pulses with action on and off the court. With wit, humor, and honesty, Justin unfolds over one hot summer.
An action-packed basketball series from author LJ Alonge set on the courts of Oakland, CA.
Justin has a list of goals stashed under his mattress. Number 1 is "figure out life plans." Number 5 is "earn Zen Master rating in WoW." Nowhere on that list is "play the crew from Ghosttown," but that's the type of trouble that always seems to finds him. 
The debut title from LJ Alonge's new basketball series pulses with action on and off the court. With wit, humor, and honesty, Justin unfolds over one hot summer.
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    4.8
  • Lexile:
    740
  • Interest Level:
    MG+
  • Text Difficulty:
    3 - 4

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Chapter 1: All-American Beef
     

    When Frank’s raging like he is right now, you just have to let him get it out of his system. If you tell him to cool it, you’ll only make things worse. We’re walking down Telegraph, and every time we stop at a corner, he tries to knock over a trash can. They’re the old steel ones that sound like a car wreck when they hit the sidewalk. Frank’s still waiting on his growth spurt; he needs a running start and hard kick to get the cans over. The one he knocks over now rolls halfway into the street, emptying its Styrofoam guts in the bike lane before settling in the gutter.

    “Nice one,” I say, hoping it’s the last.

    “Shut up,” he says. “You ain’t helping.”

    “Trash can didn’t do nothing to me.”

    He wipes his hands, the way people do when they’re proud of their work.

    “Feel better?” I ask.

    “Like a champ,” he says.

    The problem is money. We have none, we never have any, but today’s the last straw. We’ve been to a pizza place and a wing place and a sub place. They looked at both of my wrinkled dollars like they were covered in slime and pointed their snooty fingers over our heads, to the door. We left as Frank insulted their food, his stomach growling noisily the whole time. We justtried to eat and run at this Korean place, but they threw us out after the salads. I’ve still got the taste of ranch dressing stuck in my mouth.

    “You know what I’m gonna do with my first million?” Frank says, trying to work another can into the street.

    “Invest in the stock market.”

    “No. That’s some nerdy shit you would do. You’d probably throw it all away on books. No—what I would do is buy a restaurant. That way, I could have them deliver food to my house for free every day. Grilled cheese every day. Free.”

    A million dollars and he’d eat grilled cheese every day. That’s Frank in a nutshell.

    “Sounds good,” I tell him. “But what are we doing in the meantime?”

    He sighs. “Don’t know.”

    After some thought I say, “I’d probably build a couple schools,” thinking it’s the right thing to say, but by then Frank’s lost interest. So we’re standing on the corner, sulking, when a group of kids walks past us, laughing, pushing, their hands stuffed into the bottom of a greasy paper bag.

    “Where’d y’all get that?” Frank asks.

    “Up the street,” one of the kids says. There’s a mush of fries in the back of his mouth. “Want some?”

    My mom says nobody but con artists and churchfolk give you things for no reason. This kid looks tricky. He’s a heavyweight whose lips shine with grease. Just watching him chew makes me uneasy.

    “Yeah,” Frank says, reaching out his hand. “Lemme grab a couple.”

    “No problem,” the kid says, pouring the fries onto the sidewalk. “Eat up.”

    A soggy knot of fries goes spilling out between us. A dark puddle of oil forms around the edges. It’s not that funny, but the kids are laughing so hard, they keep falling over each other.

    “Eat!” Grease Lips repeats.

    Instead, Frank steps on the pile. Potato mush covers his shoes. He’s got his jaw clenched and his fists balled up. The guys keep laughing. Frank’s not afraid of a fight, but with his size, it’s hard to take him seriously. Plus there’s six of them. They...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 27, 2016
    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.

  • School Library Journal

    April 1, 2016

    Gr 8 Up-Justin is having a tough summer in his gritty Oakland neighborhood. In order to distance himself from his alcoholic father and his boring stepfather, he has a list of goals for himself but is torn between his love of video games and literature and his desire to fit in with the other teens in his neighborhood. When Justin's attempt to earn points with the local gang by vandalizing a store ends poorly, his friend Frank decides that the two can prove themselves by defending the neighborhood basketball court against the rival Ghosttown players. They find enough misfit members to make a team, and Justin discovers that even though he hasn't achieved his goals, he has made progress toward them. This is a quick read with uncomplicated prose, and the basketball descriptions, as well as the theme of identity, will resonate with readers who are interested in urban fiction. Justin isn't caught for setting the store on fire, and he doesn't experience any guilt over destroying his friend's livelihood, which is disturbing, and the anachronistic use of the term Negro is confusing. VERDICT While the short length and cover illustration make this seem appropriate for a younger audience, the situations and coarse language make this a better purchase for high school libraries with struggling or reluctant readers.-Karen Yingling, Blendon Middle School, Westerville, OH

    Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2016
    Alonge inaugurates a new basketball series set in Oakland, California, with a story featuring a young man trying to figure out basketball and life. Who exactly is Justin Shaw? Is he "a good boy," as his friend Omar, the Nigerian store owner, tells him? Is he "a nobody, a zero," as he himself thinks? Maybe his imaginary headline has it right: "Simpleton Gives into Peer Pressure, Ruins Life." Though he grew 7 inches last spring and is now 6-foot-4, at Bushrod, the local basketball court, he's no good, "a mess of arms and legs, uncoordinated like you wouldn't believe." The brief novel is both a satisfying basketball story and an African-American boy's first-person account of finding his way in the world. He's reading Don Quixote and is kind of like the fictional protagonist, except his windmill is the social scene of Bushrod and his unfortunate, sometimes-disastrous, attempts to fit in. When Justin and his best friend put together a team to play the invincible Ghosttown team, it seems that a Rocky-style battle of underdog vs. the mighty is in the offing, but debut author Alonge plays the game just right and stays true to his protagonist, letting Justin face the giants while knowing he's really playing for bigger stakes. A satisfying character study that will leave readers racing to get the simultaneously publishing second installment, Janae, starring the tough, sharpshooting girl standout on Justin's team. (Fiction. 13-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Title Information+
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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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LJ Alonge
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