I doubt there has ever been an editor, blogger, or agent proclaiming what we need in MG fiction is a book about miniature golf. Author John David Anderson thought differently. ONE LAST SHOT covers every birdie, par, and bogie in an 18-hole tournament. No kidding. Putt-putt.
As I tee off with my review I’ll admit Mr. Anderson is one of my favorite authors with books like MRS. BIXBY’S LAST DAY, FINDING ORION, and POSTED. With ONE LAST SHOT he chose one of my least favorite storytelling strategies, starting the book at the beginning of the last scene. I’m more of a start at the beginning and end with the climatic ending kind of reader.
This has another twist which got my attention. The chapters are labeled as holes from 1 to 18. They each begin with a description of the challenges brought forth with playing the hole. Then it flashes back to the story as to what brought 12-year-old Malcolm to compete in the mini golf competition. Chapters end with how Malcolm did on the hole and how far he is from the lead.
Told in first person, the ride is a slow climb. Stick with it and the storytelling technique turns out to be quite effective. Malcolm is an only child and can never live up to his dad’s push to make him a star—hopefully in baseball but any sport would do. Malcolm is torn between not being very good at sports and wanting to please his dad.
When Malcolm shows he’s pretty good a miniature golf his dad doesn’t just let it stay that way. He hires a former pro golfer to give his son putting lessons and gets Malcolm’s okay to enter a tournament. This adds tension to an already unsettled home situation as his parents are always having loud disagreements about Malcolm and almost anything else.
By the time you reach the clubhouse, or rather the final page, you walk away with a sense of time well spent. A few holes in one and an enjoyable strong voice in Malcolm. I came away with a message that some things in life you can’t fix. Instead, you have to move onto the next shot.
Here’s the official brief synopsis:
For as long as he can remember, Malcolm has never felt like he was good enough. Not for his parents, who have always seemed at odds with each other, with Malcolm caught in between. And especially not for his dad, whose competitive drive and love for sports Malcolm has never shared.
That is, until Malcolm discovers miniature golf, the one sport he actually enjoys. Maybe it’s the way in which every hole is a puzzle to be solved. Or the whimsy of the windmills and waterfalls that decorate the course. Or maybe it’s the slushies at the snack bar. But whatever the reason, something about mini golf just clicks for Malcolm. And best of all, it’s a sport his dad can’t possibly obsess over.
Or so Malcolm thinks.
Soon he is signed up for lessons and entered in tournaments. And yet, even as he becomes a better golfer and finds unexpected friends at the local course, be wonders if he might not always be a disappointment. But as the final match of the year draws closer, the tension between Malcolm’s parents reaches a breaking point, and it’s up to him to put the puzzle of his family back together again.
BOOK BIRTHDAY: May 5, 2020 PAGE COUNT: 336
FIVE SWINGS AT WHAT I LIKE ABOUT ONE LAST SHOT
- The voices that live in Malcolm’s head are at times comical, sad, and downright tragic, but they’re always revealing.
- His relationship with an actual girl named Lex was heartfelt and sorely needed in both of their lives.
- Frank Sanderson as the washed up golf pro serves not only as a coach but a mentor for Malcolm. He’s a listener with some rather bizarre training techniques.
- Parental fighting is almost never the focus in MG. Here it takes center stage as to how it effects the child they love. If these parents could get inside Malcolm’s head, they would learn a lot.
- Much like a game of miniature golf, this one has twists and turns, some comical moments, and hopefully a story you get to share with family and friends, especially those kids like Malcolm.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, Sidekicked, The Dungeoneers, and Finding Orion. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at http://www.johndavidanderson.org.
Comments are always welcome below!