Few young readers will get that far, or care much.

SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN

From the A Mickey Tussler Novel series , Vol. 2

Ridiculously mannered prose strikes out this ambitious tale of a 1949 minor-league baseball team with an autistic star hurler and a courageous black catcher.

“This was home. The ballpark. The one place in the world that mattered. The one place in the world that did not morph in the tumult of the universe.” Evidently styling himself the next Damon Runyon, Nappi follows up The Legend of Mickey Tussler (2008; made into the 2011 TV film A Mile in His Shoes) with more diamond action between the Brewers and archrival Rangers. This is highlighted by the return of Mickey, the “Baby Bazooka,” and the arrival of slugging catcher Lester Sledge from the Negro Leagues. Mining the thesaurus for alternatives to the N-word, the author subjects Sledge to a hail of “ulcerous screams” and “festering odium” from “yard ape” to “jigaboo.” Not even repeated attacks from local members of the KKK prevent him from emerging “like a powerful pupa” to shine on the field. Meanwhile, as Mickey mows opposing batters down, his mother and Brewers manager Arthur “Murph” Murphy consummate their relationship (“…her entire lifetime had been communicated to him through her soft, wet lips”). As in the opener, Rangers’ chicanery again leads to a climactic Brewers defeat, but a call to the Show for Murph, Mickey and Lester tacks on an upbeat ending.

Few young readers will get that far, or care much. (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61608-663-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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A well-intentioned project whose earnest messages of empathy and equality fall short in execution.

GAME CHANGER

A timely, speculative thought experiment in perspective, privilege, and identity.

Ash Bowman is a White, heterosexual boy who doesn’t think too deeply about the plights of others. That is, until a jarring football injury shifts him into a parallel universe. At first, the changes to Ash’s world are small: Stop signs are blue, not red, for example. Then, with every tackle, Ash transports himself into a new reality, and the changes become much more pronounced. Characters change gender, social class status, sexuality, or even live in a world where racial segregation still exists. These changes in perspective prompt Ash to cultivate a greater sense of empathy and urgency regarding the suffering of others. But as reality becomes increasingly unstable, he must set the world back to rights. Ash is a clever, sincere narrator, and his journey of self-discovery is well-paced with solid twists at nearly every chapter’s end. But the project ultimately attempts to tackle too much, covering abuse, racism, homophobia, misogyny, class privilege, and more; this leads to little time and nuance dedicated to each. Unlike in real life, characters typically possess a single marginalized identity, and the interplay between struggles for progress in different areas is not explored, oversimplifying matters. The joys of queer love are shown, but experiences of being female or Black are largely presented in terms of oppression. Additionally, characters from marginalized populations are generally used for Ash’s own character development.

A well-intentioned project whose earnest messages of empathy and equality fall short in execution. (Science fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-199867-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A superb, complex romance full of heart, humor, and unforgettable characters.

ALL THE THINGS WE NEVER KNEW

Two promising Texas basketball players navigate the ups and downs of first love.

For 11th grade star players Carli and Rex, it’s love at first sight when he blows her a kiss from the free-throw line as she watches the game on the sidelines. Carli believes in magic and looks for signs in everyday life—like Rex’s kiss—to help her make decisions. Who should she live with after her parents’ divorce? What should she do with her future—one that won’t include basketball, which she knows will disappoint her father and teammates? Rex is a nature lover like his mother, who died giving birth to him. His father is distant, and inside their big, lonely house, Rex dreams of the NBA. Carli and Rex’s roller-coaster romance is rife with betrayal, heartbreak, grief, and family secrets. As narrators of alternating chapters, they are funny, smart, and unflinchingly candid. Well-written dialogue and fine attention to detail reveal Tamani’s strong insight into Gen Z life. The intensity and depth of Carli and Rex’s love story are conveyed as deftly as the high-energy play-by-plays in their basketball games. Tamani crafts layers of complexity around falling in love, making hard choices, and dealing with loss—on and off the court—in this deeply intimate story of two talented, sensitive teens. Carli, Rex, and their relatives and friends are Black; Rex’s teammates are White.

A superb, complex romance full of heart, humor, and unforgettable characters. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265691-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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