From School Library Journal
Grade 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
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 8-12. After a disastrous fall from a tree, senior Ryan Ward wrote off baseball. But he is swept back into the game when cocky, charismatic Josh Daniels--a star quarterback with the perfect spiral pass as well as a pitcher with a mean slider--moves into the neighborhood. Josh is adept at placing his pitches on the line between fair and foul ("painting the black"), and in his sweep to sports fame, he lives his life much the same way. Ryan, whose spot on the team hinges on his ability to catch Josh's pitches, soon learns that more than a team slot is at stake. The well-written sports scenes--baseball and football--will draw reluctant readers, but it is Ryan's moral courage that will linger when the reading is done. Candace Smith