An extra review this week to celebrate the official start of the baseball season! I know what I’ll be watching most nights of the week!
The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith (website | twitter)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March 4, 2008
Format read: Hardcover borrowed from library
Target Audience: Young Adult
Why I read it: I’m a super baseball fan and I wanted to read more of Jennifer’s work.
Summary: The Chicago Cubs mean everything to Ryan. After her father died tragically five years ago, baseball season is the way she manages to stay closest to him. While her life is changing around her, Ryan is still dealing with the grief – one that has closed her off from old friends and accepting the present. But then she meets Nick, a kid from school, who understands her love of the Cubs because he feels the same way. While Ryan tries to define her relationship with Nick, life throws yet another curve ball and soon the Cubs’ season seems to mean that much more…
In some families, being born into a sport and a team is like a legacy. I could totally relate to Ryan and her dad’s affection for the Cubs. Sure, I was brought up a Yankees fan which is totally different because yes, we have won a lot of championships but I also remember sitting through many, many boring games in the 90s where they hardly won. But we stayed the whole game and still listened to the post-game on the way home. My dad taught me how to keep score. We were friends with all the people who sat in our section. Instead of going to church on Sundays, we went to home games at Yankee Stadium.
So I could understand how Ryan’s love of the Cubs and of her father were so closely intertwined. Jennifer E. Smith is a master of delving us into the depths of this 14-year old’s innermost thoughts. Her language is poetic and as relaxed, deliberate, and exciting as any great Friday night baseball game. Smith writes about the Cub’s history with such enthusiasm and fluidity throughout the novel and just an absolute love the game. One that brings people together like Ryan and her dad, and later, Ryan and Nick.
Ah, Ryan and Nick’s relationship. It’s quiet and different than other YA relationships I’ve read about. It’s not full of these huge epic gestures or plans or even that much expectation. For both Ryan and Nick, it’s about trusting the other person (for different reasons) and finding hope in dreadful situations. As the Cubs embark on the 100th year since winning their last World Series title, they are pretty much the perfect metaphor for many of the emotions running through the entire story. Why do the fans hang on like they do? How do the players continue to run out on that field day after day when they are never the chosen team? It’s all about getting up in the morning and moving forward. Any way you can.
My emotional reaction to The Comeback Season can only be a testament to Smith’s writing. I was completely invested in Ryan’s life as soon as the story began and even though it took me longer to read than other YAs, I had the pleasure of spending a substantial amount of time with this story. There is such passion behind the words, and so many gorgeous phrases I just wanted to never stop reading. It’s funny to go backwards when reading the work of one author, and I was absolutely blown away by this debut. It is a book that must find a home on my bookshelf and one that will be challenging to top…