Monday, April 2, 2007

A Baseball Novel for all ages and both genders

I first read my school library's paperback copy of Striking Out by Will Weaver and was immediately engrossed and also surprised that a young adult sports novel could be so fine. The book had been well-reviewed, and it didn't look too long, so I picked it up. Now there are three "Billy Baggs" novels: Striking Out, then Farm Team, and then Hard Ball , which I've just read and want to comment on here.
Hard Ball is an immediately gripping novel of a freshman in high school, a farm boy, who happens to be a rising star as a pitcher. As the book opens, it's late summer, just before school opens, and a bunch of western Minnesota kids are on a bus, on their way to see the Twins in the big city. In the course of the game, our hero, Billy, will be hit in the mouth by a fast ball and will as a result come into possession of a signed major league glove and two partially silver front teeth. A good beginning for a year in which he will first endure and then face his rival, the other star pitcher in the school, a rich kid who wants the same girl as Billy. Add into the mix two problematic and controlling fathers (on opposite sides of the track socially, and one father a judge who has once sent the other to jail), and an insightful coach who could rival King Solomon, and you've got a great story that mixes together high school life, teenage romance, farm kids and rich suburban kids, plus two kids who hate each other but come to find some deep similarities , make it all revolve around baseball , and you've got a deep but fast-moving novel. As a female reader, I had a few tears in my eyes at a few points. But I don't think male readers would cry.

Suitable for junior high and up.
Now I've got to get hold of Farm Team.

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