I've been a fan of Jordan Sonnenblick's novels since reading Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie five years ago. I even interviewed Jordan for the Summer Blog Blast Tour in 2007, back when I was still doing occasional interviews. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip is his latest, due out March 1st.
Peter Friedman has always been an ace baseball pitcher, sharing pitching and catching duties with his best friend, AJ. The two incoming freshmen expect to take high school by storm, as companions and star athletes. However, an injury to Pete's elbow at the end of the previous season derails that plan. Pete instead finds himself working behind the camera as a sports photographer, while hiding the extent of his injury from AJ. He also tries to help his mentally deteriorating grandfather, while maybe, just maybe, acquiring a new girlfriend. It's classic coming-of-age, figuring-out-one's-place-in-the-world kind of stuff.
I enjoyed Curveball. It displays Sonnenblick's trademark skill in conveying self-deprecating, humorous teen boy voice. Like this:
"Don't look at me," she stage-whispered. "You might miss some priceless tidbits."
I just looked at her some more, because I didn't know what to say. Between the eyes and the incredibly rare conversational use of "tidbits," I think I was stunned.
She raised an eyebrow. I felt myself blushing for the second time in less than an hour. "Seriously, dude," she said. "Tidbits." (Page 36)
"I got him a drink -- I don't know what a drink was supposed to do, but it seemed like something one might do in a grandfather-rescue-type situation. He gulped it down and asked for a refill, so score one for Peter Friedman, Boy Untrained Paramedic. Then he locked eyes with me and said, "Pete. Don't get old. Don't ever get old."
"Sure," I said. "I'll be sure to step in front of a bus on my sixty-fifth birthday." (Page 113)
Curveball is not as moving as Drums Girls or After Ever After (a sports injury, however sad, isn't on a par with childhood cancer), and it's not as funny as Notes from the Midnight Driver. But it does feel authentic, particularly Pete's relationship with Angelika. A fair bit of the plot is driven by the keeping of secrets (from AJ, from Pete's parents), and Angelika is a refreshing force in favor of telling the truth.
There's a bit of wish-fulfillment to Curveball, I think. In addition to his relationship with Angelika, Pete attracts the attention of a gorgeous older girl at school. He also becomes well-known and popular awfully fast for a new freshman. But I don't think that this will be a negative for the target audience of teenage boys. And frankly, I don't think that there will ever be enough funny, realistic novels out there for teen boys. Although I personally didn't love Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip as much as I loved some of Sonnenblick's other novels, I still think that it's a must-purchase title for high school (and maybe middle school) libraries.
Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher (pre-release, but a finished copy)
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).