Last April Noah was a Little League catcher on a strong team—five months and one devastating car accident later, the seventh-grader’s fatherless, bitter, and sidelined in a wheelchair.
How do you relate to the teachers and kids who saw you as an athlete now that your spinal cord injury prevents you from controlling basic bodily functions? Former rival Logan, the coach’s son and team’s ace pitcher, now ridicules Noah. Only his friendship with Alyssa remains unchanged until new student Dee-Dub (short for Double-Wide) arrives. It’s refreshing to hang with someone who knows him only post-accident, though Dee-Dub has issues; he’s exceptionally bright but has a hard time with social cues (he presents as if he’s on the spectrum, but no diagnosis is mentioned). Noah’s resistance to physical therapy worries his mom. Her friendship with snarky fourth-grader Makayla’s dad upsets Noah. Wise adults, including a neighbor estranged from his own children, and wise kids like Dynamo, a younger PT patient, help Noah move from “mascot” to active participant in life. (The book hints at ethnic markers in names and hairstyles but otherwise adheres to the white default.) The surfeit of plotlines and themes prevents in-depth treatment, and superprecocious Makayla and Dynamo are unconvincing, but droll, sympathetic Noah keeps it real. His dilemma is universal: the struggle to rebuild identity when what once defined us no longer exists.
This funny, if flawed, baseball-infused tale highlights the challenges of adapting to puberty and sudden disability at the same time. (Fiction. 8-12)