YA Book Review: Take Your Best Shot

In the introduction to his book, Take Your Best Shot, fourteen-year-old Austin Gutwein writes:

“Something is happening in our generation. Kids are really trying to make a difference in the world. They’re reaching out to people in need, and they’re stepping out of their comfort zones. Something is happening in their hearts. They want to take their best shot at life; they want to do something bigger than themselves.”

That’s exactly what Austin did. He was just nine years old when he watched a video about an African AIDS orphan named Maggie. That video led him to take his best shot, and when he did, he changed the lives of AIDS victims on the other side of the world. Austin made a difference by shooting two thousand free throws in a local gymnasium. His friends, family and community sponsored him, and he raised $3000 to help African children orphaned by AIDS. But Austin didn’t stop there. He founded “Hoops of Hope”, an annual event to further help AIDS victims. Since then, with God’s guidance, Austin and his “team” have accomplished far more than he ever imagined. The events he’s organized have built a school and a clinic in Africa, and his vision continues to grow. Austin wrote a book about it. Here’s what he has to say:

Austin’s book, Take Your Best Shot, is his personal narrative. It tells the story of how “Hoops of Hope” grew into a miracle, and it includes a sub-story about Austin’s faith in God. With the help of co-writer Todd Hillard, Austin writes in a teen-friendly style that encourages kids to search for their own ways to make a difference as well as introduces them to a purpose-driven life through faith in God. Each chapter ends with thought-provoking questions, activities and links to additional information.

Near the end of his book, Austin writes:

“Who would have dreamed that one kid, one video, a basketball, and a hoop in America could be used to change lives half a world away?”

His book is proof that one kid with a vision can indeed change the world.

I highly recommend that you buy a copy of Take Your Best Shot and read it with your kids. Then have a family conference to answer the question: “How can we make a difference?


The video that changed Austin’s life was about girl in Zambia. Her name was Maggie and, like Austin, she was nine years old. Maggie was orphaned. Most of her family members had died of AIDS, and she lived in poverty in a mud hut slightly bigger than a walk-in closet. Maggie’s only living relative, her seventy-three-year-old great-grandmother lived with and cared for her. Watch this video that inspired Austin to make a difference in the lives of children orphaned by AIDS.

To learn what happened to Maggie, be sure to read the last chapter of Austin’s book.

Take Your Best Shot is published by Thomas Nelson
© September 2009

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 240 pages
ISBN-10: 1400315158
ISBN-13: 978-1400315154

You can preview the book by clicking here.

Read Austin’s blog.

Note: Each chapter in Take Your Best Shot starts with an inspirational quotation. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook this week. I’ll be posting some of the quotes.


1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews

One response to “YA Book Review: Take Your Best Shot

  1. Hi Jean -What a great story! Good for Austin, who didn't just feel sorry for those kids, but actually did something.Blessings,Susan 🙂

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