Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Interest: Sports / Guy appeal
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Source: ARC received at the ALAN Conference
Summary (From Goodreads): Sometimes, the greatest comebacks take place far away from the ball field. Meet Peter Friedman, high school freshman. Talented photographer. Former baseball star. When a freakish injury ends his pitching career, Peter has some major things to figure out. Is there life after sports? Why has his grandfather suddenly given him thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment? And is it his imagination, or is the super-hot star of the girls’ swim team flirting with him, right in front of the amazing new girl in his photography class? In his new novel, teen author Jordan Sonnenblick performs his usual miraculous feat: exploring deep themes of friendship, romance, family, and tragedy, while still managing to be hilariously funny.
Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick is the first book I’ve read by this author. A friend of mine told me that she read After Ever After to one of her classes, but other than that I haven’t heard much about Jordan Sonnenblick’s work. After reading Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, I feel let down that I didn’t know about his other books before. I adored this book. I loved the characters, the plot, the balance of sports and family and art, everything. I just looked up some of Jordan Sonnenblick’s other books and found them at my local Barnes & Noble, which means I have a trip to the book store scheduled for today. If his other books are great like Curveball, then I can’t go wrong!
Like I said, I love the characters. Usually when I can’t finish a book, it’s because I don’t connect with the characters. Peter is a likeable character. He’s entering his freshman year of high school, and he and his best friend A.J. have big plans. Peter and A.J. have always played baseball together, and they know they can dominate in high school. Sadly, Peter’s dreams of playing high school baseball are crushed because of an injury. This unfortunate injury really sets the pace for Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip, because at the very beginning of a new chapter in Peter’s life, he is forced to change more than he planned. Peter has always identified himself as a baseball player, but now he doesn’t know what to do or who he’s going to be. Thankfully he has his grampa (an odd spelling, but that’s how it’s spelled in the book), who is a well known photographer. Peter’s grampa has been teaching him about photography for almost as long as Peter has been playing baseball, so it’s second nature to him. No more baseball and a depressed Peter leads him to taking a photography class (so he can find something else to focus on) where he meets the lovely Angelika. Jordan Sonnenblick has a great cast of characters here. A.J. is completely focused on him and Peter playing baseball together, but Peter can’t find the words to break the bad news to him. He’s not an overly heavy presence in the book, but when he’s in a scene with Peter, it’s great and usually funny–especially when A.J. wants to give Peter love advice. Angelika is Peter’s love interest, and while she makes him incredibly nervous, she’s very level-headed and really helps Peter.
While I love all the characters, I need to touch on Peter a little more. He’s obviously a very talented baseball player, but he’s also very talented in the field of photography. I love this balance because a majority of the YA I’ve read usually focuses on one ability, like art for example. Because Peter can’t play baseball anymore, he needs to find a new focus and consequently finds that he’s really good at photography after everything his grandfather has taught him. Teens who enjoy reading about sports will still enjoy Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip because even though Peter isn’t playing baseball anymore, it’s still a big part of who he is and also because he takes pictures at sporting events. Peter is simply an endearing character. He’s loyal to his family and friends and really cares about them. Readers will love him.
Sonnenblick tackles some big issues in this book, but he does a fantastic job of balancing these issues with humor. Not all of the humor is laugh out loud funny, but it’s enough to make a reader giggle. In one scene, for example, Peter’s talking to Angelika and getting ready to take some photos of her. “‘I think it makes sense to try for some, uh, full-body shots’–UGH, that sounded sleazy–‘and then, if we don’t like what we’re getting, we can get a little closer in. With this telephoto lens, I mean. Not like I’d be, uh, getting closer to you. Uh.’ That’s great, I thought. End a freaking sentence with ‘Uh,’ why don’t you? Smooth.” Peter’s insecurity around Angelika really brought out some fantastically funny lines and scenes. A.J.’s advice is an excellent source of humor. “‘Because, as your wingman and personal hormonal advisor, I have to analyze your moves, her countermoves, your counter-countermoves, her counter-counter-countermoves. . . . Wow, this is really complicated stuff. Maybe we should stop by Staples on the way home so I can buy a clipboard and some graph paper.” I read this part at the end of SSR, and one of my freshmen noticed my smiling and giggling to myself. He asked about it, so I read it to my class. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip has been added to my future read alouds list because the characters in this book are funny and their voices are very well defined.
I don’t want to get into the heavier topics because it will spoil a big part of the book. If you want to read a novel full of humor and heart, then I can’t recommend Jordan Sonnenblick’s newest novel enough. I absolutely love Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip and can’t wait to read more of his books.