I am always up for trying a story that involves baseball as a strong component and it was even more enticing because it was a new to me author. A girl coming of age just as her dad takes up the post of being a professional ball team’s pitching coach just struck a cord. I was very impressed with many aspects of the story including the very real, flawed depiction of the characters involved, the portrayal of parents and family, the backdrop of professional baseball, school, track, friends and family life, and the plot that expansively took in so much more than this girl or her romance.
Told from seventeen year old Annie Lucas’ first person perspective, the story opens when her dad’s old friend, Frank, now managing the KC Royals comes to offer him a chance to coach the pitchers. Her dad has been out of baseball for years ever since his professional career has been ended by bone cancer and he lost part of his leg. Since then he has held down low paying hard jobs while raising her alone and caring for his aging mother in law suffering from Alzheimer’s while his wife gallivants around away from them pursuing her own interest. Annie never asked her dad to talk about the life he gave up, but for once in his life in her memory, she wants him to do something for himself so she pushes him to take this chance to get back into baseball. Frank has made it clear over the years that her dad knows pitching and pitchers even at a pro level.
So off they go to Kansas City and their new life. Annie is broad-sided by the young rookie pitcher her dad is particularly working with and by settling into the private all-girls school her dad picked for her because of its stellar track program. Annie makes a few false starts and mistakes getting adjusted to her new life and her crush on Brody, but it is through trial and heart crushing error that she learns to navigate her way on the cusp of adulthood while those around her struggle with the pressure of big league life.
Annie is a very endearing girl and easy to follow as she tells the story. She has her bratty and insecure moments, her times of forgetting the world doesn’t revolve around her, but she is at heart a loyal, loving, compassionate and strong girl. Her voice in the story starts out on the distinctly juvenile side, but I enjoyed how the author matured her so that she grew at a believable pace. By the end of the story, she reached a new level and it was at a realistic amount of time for the growth to take place.
I enjoyed how her story wasn’t told in a vacuum. Annie is surrounded by several people that play strong supporting roles. She has a love interest in Brody and she’s a bit fixated as is normal for her age, but she also fills the role of daughter, friend, student, and worker. Annie is vested in her dad’s career and his personal life, Brody’s life, she helps take care of her grandmother, she forms friendships with a team player’s daughter which gets her involved in that family, and she is focused on her own studies and sport. Oh, she gets all hot and bothered by Brody and they get up to stuff, but it was refreshing to see her unsure of the pace of their relationship and how she really tried to think stuff through.
Now Brody…he was not a narrator, but he plays a strong role in the story next to Annie. Brody didn’t push her and he used his two years of maturity to insist on honest communication. He didn’t let Annie get stuck in her own head, get angsty or lie to him or herself. Brody was a special guy working so hard to lay to rest his past mistakes and take on his future opportunity. He’s young and vulnerable too, but he works hard to do the right thing. I was particularly taken with the levels of the relationship between him and Annie’s dad as his coach and mentor. Annie was his kryptonite because other than her dad, he really was all alone trying to navigate the new world of professional sports he was plunged into. He too, was coming of age without much room for mistakes. The pressure he was under was almost palpable and I was really cheering for him to succeed.
Speaking of pro sports, I love baseball and following my favorite team. I always think it is exciting when the rookies come up and get their chance. I felt the author really did her homework to make the baseball backdrop and even the backdrop of Annie’s track sports feel authentic and come alive.
Oh, and as I’m writing this review, I just had to point out the freaky coincidence that the real KC Royals are getting set to play in the Championship series after years of post-season drought just like in the story.
Since it’s a YA, I will warn that it’s probably for older YA to adults due to the inclusion of partying, language, and frequent sexual scenes.
To wrap it up, I enjoyed this coming of age story set against the sports backdrop and look forward to more from this author. I would recommend it for those that enjoy mature YA Contemporary Romance.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.