Tuesday, April 01, 2008

One on One, by Tabitha King

(hb; 1993)

From the inside flap:

"A small-town school in western Maine, milltown Greenspark has a single claim to fame: its high school basketball team. A hero on the court, senior Sam Styles has led Greenspark Academy to three consecutive state championships. He has become an off-court mover-and-shaker as well, and he sends shockwaves through the school's social hierarchy when he decides that capping his own high school career with a fourth victory will not be enough: he wants the girls' team to win one, too.

"Standing between the girls and that state trophy is the person who is also their best hope of gaining it, a sophomore known as the Mutant, a/k/a Deanie Gauthier. She is attitude incarnate, a quick-silver playmaker on the court and a defiant pariah off it, as disliked as Sam is popular. If the girls are going to go all the way, Sam realizes, he will have to straighten her out.

"Saving Deanie from herself is no easy task, however. Behind the wild, tough girl, Sam discovers an unexpected soul mate, and he isn't prepared for the volatile, disturbing relationship that ignites between them and cuts radically across the grain of Greensparks' traditions. he wants her to take her team to the championships; she wants to take him where he's never been before. They both get more than they bargained for -- Deanie must surrender the secrets shielded by her Mutant facade, and Sam must take on their burden. It is an exchange that will transform both their lives."


As engrossing and full of heart-grabbing characters and situations as its published-after-One on One prequel, The Book of Reuben, King once again returns her fictional Maine area of Nodd's Ridge, first seen in her earlier novels, Caretakers and Pearl.

This time the central character is Sam Styles, son of Reuben (who's the focus in The Book of Reuben). The drama, described in King's trademark warm, vivid, and sometimes poetic verbiage, takes place after the events of Reuben. Sam has recovered from the divorce-kidnapping trauma of his religious nutjob mother (Laura), and is now dealing with semi-normal high school life under his father's finanically-strapped-but-stable roof, and the new family his father and Reuben's new wife, Pearl (from Pearl), have put together, with the semi-recent arrival of a baby step-sister, India (aka, "Indy").

This is the way novels are supposed to read. It's immediately involving, detailed, with characters whom readers are drawn toward -- I got emotional during certain scenes involving Deanie and her abusive stepfather, Tony Lord; I often found myself audibly growling: you bastard, you better get yours.

Worth your time, this also-works-as-a-stand-alone novel, though you'll probably enjoy it more if you read Caretakers (which features a younger Joe Nevers from The Book of Reuben as a main character), Pearl, and The Book of Reuben first.


fanny wonder said...

I just finished this book today after being totally engrossed in it all weekend. The ending still disturbs me. Did Sam suffer from some kind of traumatic brain injury at the end? I can accept that his body was damaged, but I can't accept that Sam was in some way changed or, rather, diminished. What are your thoughts?

Steve said...

I got the feeling he was diminished, mentally speaking: not enough that he would require a caregiver, but he wouldn't be as "quick" as he was before... not that he was perceived as "quick" to begin with.

Thanks for the comment. Always nice to talk to a like-minded reader.

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