Scribner, 2007



In 50 years, somebody is going to stumble across this novel and be blown away—and not just by the writing (which is excellent), but by the fact that it was published in 2007."
—Chuck Klosterman, Daily Beast
"An incredible novel."
—Sherman Alexie
Starred Review. This stunning debut from Boice opens with Gilbert, a pro basketball star, raping and murdering a young woman in a Las Vegas resort. Boice then circles back to an account of Gilbert's warped life, largely spent beneath the demanding thumb of Gilbert's washed-up ballplayer father, Mervin, who sees in Gilbert a chance to capture the greatness that eluded him. Thus, Gilbert endures a regimen of awful health food (Mervin: "Death begins in the colon!") and endless drills (running alongside his father's car in the dark while Mervin throws coins at his head). Gilbert jumps straight from high school to the pros, where he racks up championships and MVP awards and secures global superstardom while still just an insecure (yet grossly narcissistic) man-child who is both seduced and tormented by the sex- and celebrity-obsessed culture he sits atop. Changing fortune brings a tanking team, a nationally televised humiliation, and money and marital problems, and the cracks in Gilbert's psyche begin to spread ominously. When Boice revisits that night in the Vegas hotel room, Gilbert's path from a lonely, sensitive boy to the monster choking an unnamed girl is clear, convincing and shocking. With its bristling intelligence and crystalline prose, this provocative novel secures Boice's status as a player to watch.
Publishers Weekly

Basketball star Gilbert Marcus, the refined son of an ex-jock, enters the pros straight from high school, gets a rival teammate traded after three straight titles, and is accused of a violent crime while committing adultery. Sound familiar? James Boice's MVP is a brutally incisive roman à clef. Boice may not be an insider, but he seems to have opinions about Kobe Bryant. His jarring stream-of-consciousness prose clicks once you realize he's given his narcissistic protagonist the deranged neuroses of a Bret Easton Ellis character. His portrait of Marcus is a frightening trip through the misogynistic, homophobic mind of a professional athlete. A-
Entertainment Weekly

"The hands-down best contemporary behind-the-scenes sports novel (or sports novel of any kind) I’ve ever read is James Boice’s MVP, which also happens to be the best novel I’ve ever read about the morally corrosive side effects of fame. It follows a lightly fictionalized basketball star’s rise and fall and sociopathic rise (if you can’t guess who it is by page 50, you’re not watching enough ESPN)."

—Andrew Pyper, Globe and Mail

James Boice's electric debut appears exploitative and tasteless in its opening moments, when basketball superstar Gilbert Marcus rapes and accidentally kills a young woman in a Las Vegas hotel room. But MVP isn't simply capitalizing on the Kobe Bryant scandal three years ago. Rather, the novel offers an astute portrait of the kind of man who panics not because he's committed manslaughter, but "because if it comes out he is associating with casino owners, his career could be over and his name disgraced and he'll lose his endorsements and never be voted into the Hall of Fame."
After the killing, the novel jumps back to Marcus' childhood as the son of a professional bench-warmer. Young Gilbert submits to training that crosses the line into abuse, and his diet is punctuated with gluten burgers and protein shakes because, as his father believes, "Death begins in the colon!" The result is a boy-man with tremendous skill on the court and little understanding of himself.
"MVP" may be about basketball players, but it also succeeds in depicting the sullied underbelly of contemporary professional sports. More importantly, Boice allows us to witness the creation of an unapologetic social monster.
Cleveland Plain Dealer

"I am unable to compare MVP with any other works of literature, simply because I've never read any other books that are remotely like this. It's an astounding synthesis of reality, imagination, and psychological clarity. James Boice is going to crush the world."

—Chuck Klosterman

"Dark, sordid, creepy and not exactly beach reading, but good luck putting it down."
ESPN Magazine

"A fantastic, chilling portrait of a vain pro athlete."
Chicago Tribune
"[James Boice] masterfully employs a style all his own."
Boston Magazine

"There's a jittery brilliance...[James Boice] has considerable stylistic flair."
Kirkus Reviews
“The best novel I've read in a while.”
Village Voice