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Randy Ribay delivers a morally complex narrative in his new young adult novel. After the Shot Drops follows the story of Bunny and Nasir, two teenage boys from a tough inner-city neighborhood. When Bunny Thompson accepts a basketball scholarship to St. Sebastian’s, an elite private school, a rift comes between the two friends.

The novel alternates between the perspectives of Bunny and Nasir, allowing readers to become intimately acquainted with each character. Following Bunny’s transfer to St. Sebastian’s, both characters face difficult decisions regarding family, friendship, and love.

In Bunny’s absence, Nasir connects with his cousin Wallace. With the threat of eviction hanging over his cousin, Nasir desperately wants to help. Nasir’s parents, however, think that Wallace is a bad example, and they decline support. Ribay portrays Nasir’s inner conflict with heartbreaking honesty:

“Anger courses through me. Anger at Wallace’s landlord. Anger at his shitty parents. Anger at my own parents, my own small house. Anger at Bunny, St. Sebastian’s, and the unfairness of this world that tells us to help each other but thrives on us not helping each other.”

Wallace takes matters into his own hands, and he finds a way to buy extra time. The plan requires Nasir’s help, and the catch is that Bunny Thompson’s basketball career may suffer serious consequences. Torn between loyalties to his cousin and his best friend, Nasir must make an impossible choice: “The thing is, I don’t know how to help one without hurting the other.”

With unflinching prose, Ribay examines how altruistic intentions come into conflict with harsh realities. Ribay’s characters don’t have a magical third option, and as they struggle to do what’s best, they teach us the importance of empathy and forgiveness.

After the Shot Drops tells an important, coming-of-age story for our times. While the novel is harrowing at many turns, Ribay shows us the underside of grief: “We laugh…not because it’s funny, but because sometimes that’s the only way not to cry.” – Joanne Mallari

Also available by Randy Ribay: An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes; Welcome Home; Reading Glasses.

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