Reviewed by Osbaldo P., 6th grader at Mannheim Middle School.
If you had to choose between two basketball teams to play for, one you used to compete for, another you currently play on, which side would you choose to honor? This is a question Lincoln, the main character, must answer before time is up. In Gary Soto's book Taking Sides Lincoln must decide between two schools. Which one is the school he truly feels like home in?
One school, Franklin, is where he grew up to become an amazing basketball player. Most of his friends are there, and he felt like a traitor when he left to attend Columbus Junior High, where he currently learns and plays basketball as an eighth grader. Columbus has what appears to be physically and mentally advanced students, as well as more wealth than other schools. Students take it easy, describing life in the school as a piece of cake. Meanwhile in Franklin, you can only hope you can avoid a fight there.
A few of the other characters help him out through the troubling times of moving to a new school. His best friend, Tony, attends Franklin. Roy, his mother's boyfriend ever since their parents were divorced, went to Franklin in 1970. A girl he likes, Monica, went to Franklin, but now attends Columbus Junior High, just like Lincoln. She used to play basketball for Franklin, but now doesn't play in a team at all. Meanwhile Columbus has James, a friend who plays basketball for Columbus. Finally, there is Coach Yesutis, the basketball coach for Columbus, who Lincoln described as “has "trouble inside his own head."
Reading through it helped me understand what Lincoln was going through. I can visualize taking his place and choosing a side, and how difficult it would be with people possessing a variety of personalities prompting me to make a difficult choice. My eyes were scanning through the pages, my fingers carefully flipping them, and my mind kept thinking,"What would I do in that situation?" I was magnetized to the book, and was also constantly reading while only guessing what would happen in the next chapter.
I was reading the chapters, knowing this could happen to anyone moving to a different school, knowing the book is not about basketball, but instead about making a choice, to decide on the option that comforts you more and keeps those you love in joy. You need to make the choice that does not break the friendships in your life nor the promises you make. That is what I learned when I finished reading the amazing, lesson packed pages of the book.
This is a book for anyone who loves realistic fiction and books about growing up. Taking Sides is a book for any age, any personality, and any sports-loving person. With the theme of not only sports, but about growing up, this could be one of the best books I have read this year.