JOCK AND JILL by Robert Lipsyte


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Lipsyte's suburban (New Jersey) high school jock, a crack pitcher, goes off his straight-arrow track and develops a social conscience as a result of running into a flaky female's camera while chasing a ball over the fence. Already tiring of his bland, tennis-playing high school girlfriend, Jack is strongly attracted to Jill, the girl with the camera, even though her behavior is unpredictable and she lives in New York in a home for disturbed rich teenagers, run by a psychiatrist who zonks them out with drugs (hence the odd behavior). Through Jill, Jack meets Hector, a former South Bronx gang leader now dedicated to empowering the people. In a roach-infested, landlord-abandoned apartment building, which Hector wants turned over to the tenants for rehabilitation, Hector shows them, and Jill takes photographs of, such horrors as two blank-eyed children chained to a radiator while their mother is off picking up sewing work. This does it for Jack and Jill, who then wring from the mayor (a friend of Jill's family) a promise to meet with Hector after the mayor's scheduled first toss at Yankee Stadium, before the Metro Area high school championship that Jack himself will be playing in. Comes the day, and a struggle over the team doctor's painkilling drugs, which Jack has come to suspect. Still, Jack is in transcendent form--which Lipsyte matches in the writing--and pitches a perfect game for seven innings. Then, in a movie-like climax, Jill runs up announcing that Hector has been wrongly arrested; and Jack, leaving the game, rushes with her to the control booth--tapping out a public plea on the electronic scoreboard as officials break down the door to haul him away. In the end, Hector gets his building, Jill is whisked off by her parents (but not forever, Jack tells himself), and Jack feels satisfied because he did in a meaningful way ""go the distance""--a sports ideal repeatedly invoked by his coach, father, and sports doctor. Earnest (with a strong anti-drug stance that applies as well to the sports doctor's goods), professionally plotted, and predictably type cast, this is essentially an update of the perennial sports-morality novel--which is not to deny that the updating is a positive development and more than skin deep, and the form fleshed out by an expert.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row