Did you know that Stephen King has a wife who is herself an extremely talented author? Well, he does, and Tabitha King has written one of my all-time favorite books that isn’t by Diana Gabaldon. Definitely on my top five list, One on One is the story of Sam Styles, small town high school basketball god, genial giant, stutterer, all around good kid, and listener of terrible music, and Deanie Gauthier, aka the Mutant. Deanie is also a basketball star, but is better known for her shaved head, excessive piercings, tattoos, and for being a freak in the sheets (a reputation she may or may not have really earned).
King has written a novel where the characters spring fully formed from the page, even the minor ones. Sam is a senior at Greenspark High School in Maine, and his team is making a run at the state championship. If they win, it will be their fourth in four years. Scouts and colleges are courting him, and all Sam wants to do is get through the season. Deanie is a sophomore on the girls’ team and has ambitions, but they are often hindered by her appearance and attitude. Sam runs into her before school one day and for the first time sees her as more than the Mutant, the punchline of a bad joke, or a walking bad attitude. He sees HER, not the things she wears or the trash spewing from her mouth. It is a pivotal moment in life for both of them, one of those moments that don’t seem like a big deal at the time, but the ripples affect everything that comes after. For both of them, together and separately.
This book is a lot like the tv show Friday Night Lights in that it is about the sport (in this case basketball), but it is REALLY about the people and the town, and their struggles small and large. The plotting is intricate (I’m really trying to avoid spoilers, but SO much goes on that I haven’t even alluded to), the prose gorgeous, and it is possibly the most honestly accurate portrayal of teenagers I’ve ever read.
It isn’t available on Kindle, unfortunately, but the link on Amazon will get you a hardback for less than $5. BUY THIS BOOK. It is completely worth it. I’ve read it at least once a year since 1993, and want someone to talk to about it, so let me know if you do.
Side note: Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus is pretty much the perfect accompaniment. I’ve included the youtube video for your listening/viewing pleasure: