It happens at a high school game when he is trying to take off his warm-up jacket as he gets ready to relieve another player. He throws down his jacket, picks it up, throws it down and keeps repeating the motion until he gets the “perfect toss” and can get on the court where the problem always disappears.
OCD episodes emerge at nervous moments such as when Sticky first talks with beautiful, compassionate An Thu, who works as a clerk at one of his favorite clothing stores. He can’t stop himself from taking a shirt off the rack and replacing it numerous times. An Thu does the same to make him feel more comfortable, and love blossoms.
It is this paralyzing obsession with putting life in order by doing things just so that leads Sticky into danger and choices — both good and bad — that change the course of his life.
Although Ball Don’t Lie contains rough language, sex, drinking, and sorrows that will make some readers uncomfortable, none of it is gratuitous.
De la Peña has a great ear for natural language and loves dialogue. He builds dramatic tension and the history of his characters through flashbacks. Another part of his signature is pushing characters to the brink of destruction and rescuing them in unexpected ways.
Ball Don’t Lie, which was published in 2005, is artful yet quick read that teens and all who care about them will have trouble putting down. Readers who want more should try the author’s other young adult novels Mexican White Boy (2008), We Were Here (2009) and I Will Save You (2010).
Also, Ball Don’t Lie was filmed a few years ago, but the movie was never released to theaters. It can be downloaded online and stars the well-known street basketball star Grayson “The Professor” Boucher.