Baseball, both minor league and Little League, forms the throughline for this exploration of grief.
Pitcher Quinnen Donnelly is reluctant to go back to playing baseball because she’s still mourning her sister, Haley, who died nine months ago; her family’s decision to board a player for the local minor league team, the Bandits, may provide welcome distraction. The book shifts back and forth in time. Some chapters take place the summer before the death, and some are set in the present. Haley is such an appealing character that readers may mourn her, too. But the unusual structure creates an odd effect: the story seems to be counting down, over the length of the book, to Haley’s death. This generates suspense, but during the slower passages, readers may wonder, guiltily, how soon it’ll happen. They might be more engaged by other characters, like Quinnen’s friend Hector, a Bandits player from the Dominican Republic, who’s going through a slump. There’s also Brandon, the extremely blond, extremely tan, extremely arrogant player who stays with the Donnellys. Their plotlines are less predictable than the somber main story. Bishop is often ambiguous about race, though Hector is described as having “dark brown skin”; the cover illustration reveals Quinnen to be white.
The life-and-death themes are thought-provoking, but readers may love the book even more for its many digressions. (baseball glossary) (Fiction. 8-12)