Cover Image: The Fifth Quarter: Hard Court

The Fifth Quarter: Hard Court

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E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Lori has made peace with some of her friends doing drama rather than playing basketball in The Fifth Quarter, and is still playing on a travel team. She and Elyse do well together, but still are relegated to the fifth quarter, when points aren't being scored. Her mother Rachel is still working long hours, and her father stays at home and drives her to her games, bringing along her whiny twin siblings. This changes, however; her father gets a new, full-time job, and her mother cuts back to part time. Because of this, she has time to coach Lori in a rec league. Lori isn't thrilled about this; her mother can be rather intense, and she'll HAVE to play on her mom's team, while Elyse is on another. In green and white flashbacks, we see the mother's experience playing soccer in the 1990s, and see how her growing up years mirror Lori's. She had a stepmother, her father coached her soccer team, and her step sister Miriam wasn't a good player, and Rachel bullied her a bit on the field. Things were rocky with her father's marriage, and he frequently complains about the stepmother's dedication to work and her inability to keep house properly. Rachel struggled to play soccer well in order to make her father happy. We see Lori trying to keep her own parents from fighting, especially when her father's new job is eliminated. Will Lori be able to balance her sports, friends, and family life?
Strengths: As a huge fan of sports books for middle grade readers, especially involving girls sports, I was very glad to see this one. There is even some information about Title IX at the end of the book, and there needs to be a lot more awareness about that legislation among young readers! The transition between Lori and Rachel's stories was particularly effective, and Rachel's childhood explains a lot of the dynamic in Lori's family. I did enjoy the conversation she had with her father about how he was dealing with his changes in employment. There aren't enough books that show how parental circumstances affect middle grade characters. The illustrations are colorful and easy to follow-- the different characters definitely have defining characteristics that make them easy to tell apart, which is a huge help. If you liked The Fifth Quarter, you'll definitely want to take a look at this continuation.
Weaknesses: Since I haven't seen a basketball game since about 1975, I struggled to follow the action on the court. The beginning of the book was rather frenetic in its attempts to recap the first book. While this story worked fairly well as a graphic novel, there were a lot of details that were missing or harder to follow because of the format. 
What I really think: I will definitely purchase this, although there is less basketball and more family drama. Because it has sports on the cover, a lot more readers will pick it up, but it will be most successful with fans of books like Knisley's Peapod Farm and Raina Telgemeier's Sisters.
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I loved the first title in this series.  I really wanted to love this title as well, but I found the Lori's parents to be far too negative and hard on her.  She was clearly trying her best, but they just kept telling her she needed to try harder.  The flashback scenes of the mother's past while playing soccer gave significant insight about her character, but didn't always help the story flow.  I still enjoyed this title, but not as much as the first book in the series.
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The flashback story made me so sad. Poor Rachel. I was glad to see her make some different choices with her daughter, and fight for her husband. That said, while the parents both had moments of being loving and supportive of Lori, they were both way too hard on her. For that reason, this one was just okay for me.
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