A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The best qualities of team sports are reinforced: sportsmanship, loyalty, and perseverance. A main character who had ruined his baseball career by using steroids and getting caught tries to make a comeback. There is a little discussion of why some athletes use steroids. In sharp contrast are the younger main characters who try to improve their game by hard work and dedication.
Positive Role Models
There are many adults in Brian's life who are negative role models: sports stars who used steroids, a deadbeat dad. But most of them are inspirational athletes and coaches that truly enjoy helping kids. Brian himself shows a fortitude and willingness to forgive that many teens have lost by the age of 14. In sports parlance, he's got a big heart.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Discussions of steroid use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this sports story stands out not because the underdog wins in the end or saves the game in the last second. It stands out because the main character, Brian, recognizes he probably won't ever make the big leagues, but he still wants to be the best he can; because his divorced dad was a lousy father and he doesn't have a miraculous change of heart or change his ways in the end; instead Brian gains the maturity to realize his dad might not change, but he can still love him. Those are the themes that can impact readers. There is a frank discussion of steroid use and why some athletes give in to the pressure and try to cheat by using drugs (the book cites some real-life athletes such as Barry Bonds). This is a rather rare look at the shortcomings many celebrity role models have and provides a unique opportunity for parents and kids to discuss the issue.
Is It Any Good?
This is a timely exploration of why some athletes turn to steroids, how our society treats them when they get caught, and celebrity worship in general. Although the heavy description of baseball games and stats may bore kids who don't care about sports, it's a fast-paced sports story with believable characterizations of teen boys and driven athletes. And there's a complicated father-son relationship treated very realistically that will resonate with kids who have an absent or disappointing parental relationship. Brian grows to realize that his father's inability to be a good dad has nothing to do with what kind of son he is. As always with Mike Lupica's sports stories, there's so much more happening off the field.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.