Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format I read it in: Paperback copy from ALA (Thank you!)
Why I was interested in it: Boy narrator, baseball!
Summary: Peter’s dreams of being a big-time pitcher on the high school baseball team are cut short when an elbow injury stops him from playing baseball ever again. Even though he has photography to fall back on, he is still unable to come to grips with his new reality (and be honest with his best friend and teammate about it). Not to mention Gramps, his favorite relative (and the person who taught him to love photography), seems not to be himself lately and there’s that girl in class he can’t seem to stop thinking about…
Before I even say anything, I’m going to tell you to buy Curveball. Remember I said that.
Confession: I have a huge crush on Peter. He’s an athlete, he’s creative, he cares about his family, he says silly things, and he’s hilarious. It might be because I’ve been reading some dark books recently but Peter is like a breath of fresh air in a stale, stale environment. And I thought that would be hard to maintain as the author because of the serious themes that weave themselves in and out of the chapters, but no. Curveball manages to be funny, smart, adorable, heartbreaking, and real all at the same time. Remember what I said in the first sentence? (Reminder: Buy this book.)
This book is about the struggle to be honest with yourself about what’s happening in your life. This is the truth of many of these characters. Peter, of course, with his unusable pitching arm. But then there is best friend, A.J. (who is a real trip) and even Gramps (who I keep picturing as Carl in Up). The book may sound male heavy but it’s not drowning in testosterone either. It was easily relatable and I liked I was able to see into a male’s psyche as he went through such a rough identity crisis. I think Peter took the whole thing in stride though. His arm, that is. When Gramps starts to show signs of his age and declining memory, their bond is so apparent; it reminded me a lot of my grandmother and I.
Then there’s Angelika. She is not like any girl I’ve read about lately. She’s sarcastic and sassy but sweet and flirty. Their first encounter in the earlier chapters had me laughing out loud in the bookstore. (Yes I was the loudest one around.) I also liked how the book didn’t make their romance centerstage. It was gradual and given room to breathe. Much more realistic when Peter is going through so many other things at the same time.
Honestly, the whole time I read this… I was thinking how much I wanted Magan to read it too. There’s a lot of photography jargon thrown around and it made me feel really excited about pictures and I’m curious what a professional like Magan would think. (Gramps was also a wedding photographer.) Photography is such an important outlet for Peter. It gives him something to fall back on when baseball doesn’t exactly work out, it serves as a connection between him and his grandfather, and also helps him find his way to Angelika and a few other realizations along the way.
The writing is clean and concise but is still able to garner a ton of emotion. Curveball is the perfect blend of seriousness and humor, as well as able to balance the family, friendship, and romance storylines very well. For such a fast paced novel, readers are able to get a great gauge on these relationships and really connect with the characters. This is the first book I’ve read by Sonnenblick and I am anxious to give him another try.