This last year a friend recommended I read a sports novel written by well-known sports columnist Mike Lupica. I made it through the first three chapters, and abandoned it, as the plot definitely wasn’t my cup of tea. However, a few weeks after that I discovered that Lupica had written a series of sports-based novels for young adults, and decided to sample one of those.
It was sort of like opening a box of chocolates. You can’t have just one chocolate, right? Like chocolates, each of these young adult novels has a slightly different flavor and appeal. And they’re just as yummy.
I’ve now read all of Mike Lupica’s young adult novels, and can recommend the entire kit and kaboodle as good reads for both teen and adult readers. Some of these novels, including Heat, and Travel Team I highly recommend, especially for sports-oriented teens.
One of his titles, however, Miracle on 49th Street, I not only recommend–it’s also officially joined my list of all-time favorite books.
The plot seems simple enough: after her mother’s death, twelve-year-old Molly learns that she is the illegitimate daughter of a basketball superstar for the Boston Celtics. It’s the development of that story, and the characters themselves, that stand out.
Part of the appeal is that Mike Lupica really knows his sports stuff, far beyond the knowledge most of us have of pro and amateur athletics, even the most dedicated fans. At the same time, he knows how to integrate his expertise in sports into his tale without beating the reader over the head with the fact that he has both great breadth and deep depth in his insider knowledge about professional sports and professional athletes. Additionally, the writing itself is truly excellent. And, unlike many stock young adult stories, the main characters aren’t cardboard cutouts.
But the biggest appeal for me is that Lupica writes a truly compelling tale about the situation that Molly finds herself in. This is a masterfully crafted tale about the moral and ethical dilemmas that arise as consequences for a child, written from the perspective of the child’s experiences, when that child is born from an out-of-wedlock sexual liaison. Add in a plot that explores what happens as Molly realizes that her father’s career, image, endorsements and income will truly be adversely impacted by the existence of a previously unknown illegitimate daughter–and that there are terrible pressures that those circumstances create that make her question her own belief that parental love must be unconditional–and you get a whale of a tale.
For more about the author, check out his website. Lupica has written a whole slew of young adult books, as well as several adult novels and non-fiction works. He is one of the nation’s preeminent sports columnists, a TV anchor on ESPN’s The Sports Reporter as well as the host of The Mike Lupica Show. If you’re a member of Bookshare, you can get an accessible copy of the book here.
For everyone else, here’s the book information. Miracle on 49th Street, by Mike Lupica. Published by Puffin, copyright 2007. It’s 256 pages in length, and available in everything from hardback and paperback to Kindle and audible book editions. Miracle on 49th Street does not contain any explicit sex, graphic violence or strong language.