Feinstein brings his considerable sports writing experience into play with FOUL TROUBLE, a story of the games used to recruit excellent basketball players during their senior year of high school. Terrell Jamerson is among the top basketball players in the country, if not the top. Danny Wilcox is his teammate, and the son of the coach. The three of them have to navigate increasing pressure and schemes to find the right college --- and future --- for each of them. Plenty of exciting basketball games, characters who may or may not be good guys, and real life behind-the-scenes exposure to national recruiting keeps the pages turning all the way to the exciting finish.
Terrell trusts Coach Wilcox. The Coach wants to be careful with talent as great as Terrell’s. He doesn’t want to exploit him, but he wants to showcase him to help ensure a secure future for the son of a single parent. The Coach, Danny and Terrell get their first taste of the pressures to come when they attend a summer camp and agents begin approaching them in ways that skirt the NCAA rules.
"Danny and Terrell make plenty of mistakes but always have each other’s backs in a story as much about friendship and family as sports."
Danny keeps losing his temper, but he has no patience with showboating teammates or fake businessmen who want a piece of Terrell’s future. His own game is rising and he is starting to get some attention on his own. He knows that Terrell’s “Dudes,” as he calls them, from the neighborhood pickup games back home, are no good.
The promise of steak dinners, meet and greets with attractive girls and a rented luxury house and pool near the games attracts Terrell, at least a little. He thinks he knows what he is doing until one afternoon things get a bit out of hand, and he is almost caught smoking pot. Reporter Bobby Kelleher sees Terrell high, but the boys know they can trust him, just not the others who saw it. Kelleher is a lead character from other Feinstein works, and returns here as a straight shooter. He meets with Terrell and Danny about writing a story busting open the illegal college recruitment buyoffs and deals.
Danny and Terrell see more than they want to by the end of the summer, including a fall from the rim of another favored player which leaves that boy paralyzed. They also see other boys they like get bought out and make deals for sportswear and college commitments.
As they head into their senior basketball season, they each start looking seriously at a few schools. Terrell discovers that his mother’s boyfriend and even the Dudes are being offered incentives to keep track of him or push him a certain way. He, Danny and the dudes come to blows, leaving Terrell with a serious injury, and a new perspective on what he truly wants.
As satisfying as a championship, the ending of the book will leave readers with a cheering feeling rather than the sour taste they may have from the deals discussed in the book to attract players to colleges or even right into the NBA. This setup makes for fascinating reading even for non-sports fans, though in places the basketball plays and discussion runs a bit long. Danny and Terrell make plenty of mistakes but always have each other’s backs in a story as much about friendship and family as sports. Danny is as interesting as Terrell and while most teen athletes may not be weighing million dollar deals, their struggles to pick a college for the right reasons are easy to relate to. Feinstein pens another winner with FOUL TROUBLE.
Reviewed by Amy Alessio on December 17, 2013