This compelling debut novel by new talent Byron Graves tells the relatable, high-stakes story of a young athlete determined to play like the hero his Ojibwe community needs him to be.
These days, Tre Brun is happiest when he is playing basketball on the Red Lake Reservation high school team—even though he can’t help but be constantly gut-punched with memories of his big brother, Jaxon, who died in an accident.
When Jaxon's former teammates on the varsity team offer to take Tre under their wing, he sees this as his shot to represent his Ojibwe rez all the way to their first state championship. This is the first step toward his dream of playing in the NBA, no matter how much the odds are stacked against him.
But stepping into his brother’s shoes as a star player means that Tre can’t mess up. Not on the court, not at school, and not with his new friend, gamer Khiana, who he is definitely not falling in love with.
After decades of rez teams almost making it, Tre needs to take his team to state. Because if he can live up to Jaxon's dreams, their story isn’t over yet.
This book is published by Heartdrum, an imprint that publishes high-quality, contemporary stories about Indigenous young people in the United States and Canada.
Byron Graves is Ojibwe and was born and raised on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, where he played high school basketball. When he isn’t writing, he can be found playing retro video games, spending time with his family, or cheering on his beloved Minnesota Timberwolves. Rez Ball is his debut novel.
"Debut author Graves (Ojibwe) presents a deeply personal look at grief, the weight of expectations, and the ways we find connections with those we have lost... This one shoots and scores." — Kirkus Reviews
"Debut author Graves, who is Ojibwe like Tre, doesn’t shirk from showing his community’s ugly experiences, but he never languishes in them. Well-paced and exciting—the action of the basketball games is exceptionally well written—this is a solid piece of sports fiction." — Booklist
"Influenced by Byron’s own experiences, the challenges Tre faces are realistically difficult, including a team-wide drinking habit that nearly derails everything and Tre’s crush and best friend hooking up behind his back. That realism is nicely balanced, however, by a story that dutifully follows the beats of great sports movies with motivational speeches, unbelievable comebacks, raucous crowds, heartbreaking losses, and a lot of heart up to the final buzzer." — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"Once started, even the most reluctant readers will be hard-pressed to hit the pause button." [audio edition] — School Library Journal (starred review)
"Debut author Graves, who is Ojibwe, realistically depicts life living on a reservation via Tre’s earnest first-person POV, and plentiful fast-paced basketball game sequences will appeal to fans of sports fiction." — Publishers Weekly