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Reviewed by Alice DiNizo for Readers' Favorite
Five talented young basketball players from Rockwood, Georgia's high school, were all killed at different times and in different ways, but they were all much too young to die. Now they have been given a chance to come back to earth for six months to play basketball once again and help out Rockwood's currently losing basketball team, the 'Purple Phantoms,' and their beloved Coach Jones who plans on leaving Rockwood at the end of the coming year. Those five phantom basketball players - Sharon James, "JB" Brown, Dan Gnais, Walter Williams, and Ivan "Pick" Brown - miss human emotions, the aroma of sweat, and the noise of cheering crowds. Sharon joins with former boyfriend Foots Wilkins, JB with Norris Nairse, Dan with Antoine Carter, Walter with Greg Reece, and Pick with Vincent Matthews to slip into their bodies, whisper words of encouragement, and coach them on to better playing.
Phantoms of Rockwood is a very well-written story. The plot flows smoothly to the story's end as the living players come to terms with what needs changing in their lives and in their game; and as Coach Jones gets to talk with the five dead players whom he still loves, misses terribly, and will defend even if it costs him his coaching job.
All characters, both living and those who have passed on, are three-dimensional and come alive as the story progresses. That the five phantom players must go back to their place in Heaven and will take another with them will be a difficult, somewhat teary ending but the addition of a sixth phantom is hinted at throughout the last chapters so that the reader will know what is coming. Phantoms of Rockwood is a brilliant book that young adults and adult readers will adore.