Gr 8 Up‘During the summer before his senior year, Ryan Ward is thrilled when a kid his age moves in across the street. He's even more thrilled when he learns that Josh Daniels is a star athlete. The two play catch for hours and Ryan secretly dreams of catching for the varsity team in the spring. He watches in awe as Josh proceeds to become the school's starting quarterback and leads the football team to a terrific season, but he is unsettled by the aggressive side of his friend's personality. When baseball season finally arrives, Ryan makes the team as a third-string catcher. He eventually becomes a starter because he's the only one who can handle Josh's hard slider. Just before the championship game, Ryan stumbles upon and stops an assault on a girl in the school. He realizes that one of the masked assailants is Josh, but telling the authorities proves to be an agonizing decision. The book ends somewhat ironically, yet realistically, with Josh signing a multimillion dollar professional baseball contract and receiving a tap on the wrist for his crime. Ryan, meanwhile, enrolls in the local junior college. Rather than producing a stereotyped high school jock, Deuker portrays Josh as a complex and multidimensional character. Ryan is a player who succeeds with his head, rather than through sheer talent. And while he learns about the subtleties of baseball, he also learns about the subtleties of life. A well-crafted sports novel that delivers without becoming didactic or boring.‘Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL
"An excellent sports story, with a lot more to it than just the game of baseball." -- "VOYA""An exciting and moving novel..." -- "Kirkus Reviews"