After the death of his older brother and basketball superstar Jaxon, Tre Brun is set on making the varsity basketball team and helping the high school win their first state championship. Not only would this honor Jaxon’s memory, but it would be an amazing way to represent his Ojibwe community and be the first step in reaching for his goal of joining the NBA. But stepping into the spotlight means that he can’t mess up - in any aspect of his life. 

This book…this book had so many things that honestly just spoke to my soul. There is some weird misconception that readers can’t also be sports fans, but I’m living proof that is not the case. I absolutely love basketball (and baseball!) and so reading the game scenes in this book was absolutely thrilling. I was on the edge of my seat, rooting hard for the Warriors just the same way that I do in real life (also, coincidentally enough, for the Warriors).

In addition to all the action-packed basketball scenes, there were references to superheroes, comic books, and superhero and comic book movies. Those were fun in and of themselves, but the way in which Graves was also able to relate comic storylines to the plot of this novel was brilliant. The parallels between the story in the comics and what was happening in Tre's life were beautifully crafted.

Graves also tackles grief head-on. Not only is Tre mourning the loss of his brother, but we also see his parents, his friends, his teammates, and his entire community mourning him. Just as in life, the pain comes in waves and the healing sometimes has to have a reset. I’ve not lost a sibling, but I have lost someone deeply close to me and Graves’ portrayal of the Bruns’ grieving and healing hit really close to home and honestly made me feel seen in a way that was cathartic. No one was ever made to feel like their grief was "too much" or that they were holding on to it too long and I really appreciated that.

It is clear that this story was infused with a lot of heart, but the author’s note at the end really brought into focus how close to the heart the author holds this story. Graves wrote from a place of experience, having played for the real life Red Lake Warriors during high school. When I finished the story, I was completely enamored, but reading the author’s note and understanding how and why this story came about really rooted it even deeper in my heart.

Quick content warning: grief and grieving the loss of a loved one, teenage consumption of alcohol and drugs, mild profanity, racism and discrimination, and a tense traffic stop between white officers and Native teens.

REZ BALL is Byron Graves’ debut novel and, if this is what we’re to expect from his writing, I can’t wait to see what comes next! It hits shelves on September 12, 2023 and you can grab a copy here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."