57 pages 1 hour read

Randy Ribay

After the Shot Drops

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2018

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


After the Shot Drops (2018) is a young adult realistic fiction novel by Randy Ribay. His second novel, it earned starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly. His 2020 novel, Patron Saints of Nothing, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Born in the Philippines before moving to the Midwest as a child, Ribay’s books consider the nuances of cultural identity and the ways poverty, systemic violence, and oppression can affect one’s choices and chances.

The book follows the friendship between Bunny and Nasir, two best friends from the same neighborhood who grow apart when Bunny accepts a basketball scholarship to an elite private school. Bunny becomes a star player at his new school, but when Nasir’s impoverished cousin Wallace accrues unpayable gambling debts, Bunny has to decide whether to throw the game to save Wallace’s life.

Plot Summary

The novel takes place in the fictional Whitman, New Jersey. This setting is modeled after the real-life city of Camden, New Jersey. “Whitman” is a reference to American poet Walt Whitman, who spent his final years in Camden. Like Camden, the fictional Whitman is part of the Philadelphia metro area: It sits across the river from Philadelphia, and its residents identify with Philadelphia culture and sports, especially the Sixers, the city’s professional basketball team.

The story is narrated from the first-person point of view through the alternating perspectives of two high school sophomores, Bunny Thompson and Nasir Blake. They are neighbors and have been best friends since childhood. Though they are bonded by their love of basketball, Bunny has the potential to become a professional player in the NBA, whereas Nasir is more bookish and considers studying medicine. Both come from working-class families struggling to make ends meet in the economically depressed landscape of urban America circa 2018. Bunny’s family in particular faces economic hardship as his father’s bookstore, Word Up, is poised to go out of business. The problem of paying for college is especially pertinent to Bunny because he has three younger siblings, whereas Nasir is an only child. Additionally, Nasir can have his college education paid for through his father’s GI Bill. Both desire to rise above their social class and provide for their families, but Bunny faces additional financial limitations and greater pressure to succeed.

The novel begins at a vigil honoring a high school student, Gabe, who has been shot and killed. This establishes the setting of inner-city Whitman as a place with a high crime rate. Additional details establish that Bunny and Nasir’s side of town is struggling with both poverty and gentrification; there are frequent car alarms and gunshots, families sharing small spaces, broken amenities such as heating, and slumlords raising rents despite failing to provide adequate housing. Bunny and Nasir both desire to break the cycle of poverty and either escape or have the financial resources to improve life in their community.

By the novel’s beginning, Bunny has already transferred to St. Sebastian’s on a basketball scholarship. He and Nasir haven’t spoken for months because Nasir deeply resents his decision to leave, perceiving it as a betrayal not only to him personally but also to the Whitman basketball team. Without Bunny, who had been their star player, Whitman loses to St. Sebastian’s 29-65. Although Bunny misses his former high school and his friendship with Nasir, he is tormented by the pressures facing his family: His sister, Jess, is beleaguered by crushing student loan debt; the apartment furnace is broken; and his father’s business is failing.

Nasir, meanwhile, is deeply concerned about his cousin and friend, Wallace. Since Nasir and Bunny’s estrangement, Nasir has been spending more time with Wallace, whom he learns is about to be evicted from the apartment he shares with his grandmother. Nasir dedicates himself to helping Wallace however he can—by asking his parents if Wallace can stay with them (a proposition they decline) and helping Wallace fill out job applications. Wallace, however, evinces little initiative in pursuing these above-board options. Instead, he tries to solve his financial problems by gambling on high school basketball. Wallace’s life becomes endangered when he consistently loses bets he places against St. Sebastian’s; he is threatened by the same people suspected of killing Gabe.

Bunny and Nasir eventually make amends. Bunny tells Nasir that he can convince St. Sebastian’s to allow Nasir to transfer so they can be together and enjoy the same benefits of private school education. Nasir appreciates but declines the offer because he feels emotionally beholden to his community. Meanwhile, Wallace uses Nasir and Bunny’s reconciliation to pressure Nasir into finding unsavory information about Bunny; he wants to cast aspersions on Bunny so he will be forced to sit out a game, increasing Wallace’s odds of winning his bets. Nasir reluctantly agrees to Wallace’s demands, but when Wallace is unable to find any legitimate material to use against Bunny, he manufactures a rouse that implicates Bunny in illegally accepting money and gifts from St. Sebastian’s. Bunny is forced to sit out the game, but St. Sebastian’s narrowly wins regardless. Bunny is subsequently cleared of all wrongdoing and is allowed to play in the final game.

Desperate, Wallace asks Nasir to convince Bunny to throw the game so St. Sebastian’s loses. Torn between his loyalty to Bunny and his desire to save his cousin, he agrees to ask him. Bunny does not care about Wallace’s fate but agrees to throw the game as a favor to Nasir. However, Bunny plays well enough to keep the score very close, and in the last second of the game, another player shoots the winning basket for St. Sebastian’s.

Hopeless and enraged by this perceived betrayal, Wallace confronts Bunny and Nasir after the game, and he shoots Bunny in the arm. Bunny is rushed into surgery but is expected to make a full recovery. The novel ends with Nasir visiting Wallace in jail, wondering what he could have done differently to save his cousin from his fate.