“The Cortlandt Boys” by Laura Vanderkam
Basketball, fiction, mystery, romance
December 18, 2014
5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
In 1994, the Cortlandt Cavaliers won the Pennsylvania state boys basketball championship on a last second three point shot. It was a thrilling moment for the small town in the northeastern part of the state. It not only was a watershed moment for the community, it had a profound effect on the lives of the players and others. How this affected the future of those young people is the story told in this terrific novel by Laura Vanderkam.
The book has stories from 1994, 2004 and 2013-14. The first is set in the time when the thrilling win happened and the immediate joy and celebration save for one student. Max, who was at the game and a member of the school band, suffered an injury in the mayhem after the winning shot. She then went on to become a sports journalist for a major magazine. One of her assignments was to return to the town ten years later for a feature story. There, it is revealed what happened with some of the players and also a startling discovery is made in the town.
There is also a section in which the daughter of one of the players also attempts to recreate that special time by creating a scrapbook of that time 20 years later. Her story, and how she becomes intertwined with other players, is also interesting. However, this part of the story didn’t resonate with me as much as Max’s did. What became of some of the other players range from success to tragedy and these are all woven together in a book that is hard to put down.
The writing style is crisp and easy to follow. The characters are well-developed and have a certain personality that the reader will easily recognize and have some type of emotional reaction. The story will leave the reader running through the entire gamut of feelings and will not want the book to end. A terrific read that anyone would enjoy.
The basketball portions were well written as well, as the author’s knowledge of the game is evident when writing about the action on the court and what the players and coaches not in the game were doing. I felt like I was in the stands for that championship game.
I wish to thank Ms. Vanderkam and the publisher for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I skim?
No, as I was mesmerized by this story from the beginning with the boys winning the championship and then through the years and different views.
Did I feel connected to the characters?
For the most part, yes, as I really enjoyed the part of the book through Max’s point of view and I could relate to James and his life after the championship season. I didn’t really like the character of his daughter Janie, especially when she was the lover of one of the players who was cheating on his wife.
Pace of the story:
It moves very well. Unlike other stories and books I have read that change points of view, it transitioned to that time, place and point of view very well.
Do I recommend?
Yes – because this has elements of a good sports book, a murder mystery, some romance and also runs the range of emotions that a reader can feel. I believe that because these have all been intertwined well in this complex story, fans of many different genres will enjoy this book.