Summary: Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up
When Rory moves to Cincinnati, Ohio, with her dad after her parents’ separation, she meets Abby, a tall fellow basketball lover, and the two become fast friends. Imagine their shock when they find out that their dads can’t stand each other — and not because they coach the city’s rival basketball teams but because of something that happened years ago when THEY were middle schoolers. Bishop takes us through the girls’ lives as they dig into what happened between their dads, telling the story from multiple perspectives: the girls’, their dads’, and a ball-playing nun in their lives.
This is a fantastic book. I love everything Jenn Bishop writes, and this is her best work so far. Abby and Rory feel like authentic tweens. Their dialogue and inner monologues feel so real, and they’re dealing with problems tweens everywhere can relate to. Rory is an only child whose parents are newly separated because her dad prioritized his work over his marriage. Abby’s family is more close-knit, and she has an older brother to whom she’s not super close.
Abby’s recently stopped playing basketball because she feels she’s not good enough, especially under the pressure of being Coach Allenback’s daughter, so she’s trying to figure out where she fits in now. But Rory is sure Abby is a great player with plenty of love for the game still, and readers will watch Abby figure out her true feelings and how to play on her own terms.
There’s a lot of emotional drama and suspense as Rory’s parents move through a divorce, and she and Abby navigate the ups and downs of their friendship. We also get plenty of middle school scenes as Rory figures out which friend group to belong to and how to balance being friends with Abby who’s kind of a loner with being well-liked at school. I really liked Rory and the way she handled everything.
This book had a lot going on but one of my favorite parts was the chapters from the dads’ perspectives as we see the heartbreaking event that tore them apart. It’s a narrative arc that shows how flawed humans can be, and it’ll move young readers to think a lot about jealousy and what it means to be a good friend. It also raises the vital theme of forgiveness.
Finally, I loved the father-daughter relationships, the obvious love for Cincinnati, Ohio, and the sheer fandom for college basketball. There were several game scenes both for the girls and their dads’ teams.
- Death: None
- Alcohol/substance abuse: A character’s parent is depicted as an alcoholic
- Sexual content: Tweens play a game of “Kiss, Marry, Kill” and one tween catches her brother kissing his girlfriend in his bedroom
- Ethnic: Most characters are cued white; Abby’s crush is a Black boy
- Sexual orientation: Most characters cued straight
Recommended for ages: 10+
Good for kids who like:
- Books by Jenn Bishop
- Basketball books
- Books featuring sporty girls
- Friendship books
- Books with multiple narrators
- Books with past and present perspectives
Buy This Book
More Book Lists
- Where We Used to Roam by Jenn Bishop
- Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop
- The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop