CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 11. . . .November 14, 2014
Hardball. (Orca Sports).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
175 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0441-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0442-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0443-2 (epub).
Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.
Review by Kerri Hutchinson.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
“Shut up, Griffin,” Wade snapped. “These boys are stupid dogs. And when they don’t do what their owner tells them, they must pay. How else are they going to learn?”
Darren shrugged his shoulders, as though Wade was waiting for an answer.
I tried to step in again to help the boys, “It goes parentheses, exponents, multiplication--” This only seemed to make Wade angrier.
Wade signalled to Darren, who pulled out an open can of dog food and a plastic spoon. He looked away, offended by the smell, and held it out.
“Your new name, Tom, is Rover. So eat up Rover,” Wade ordered.
Tom dug the spoon into the dog food. After more prodding from Wade, he slowly forced it into his mouth. He gagged, spitting small chunks onto the ground.
Griffin is in his last year of high school at Gulf Coast High, and it is his ambition to earn a scholarship to play baseball for the University of Miami Hurricanes. Griff plays baseball for his high school team, the Gulf Coast Sharks, but the season gets off to a bad start when Wade, Griff's friend and teammate, starts bullying the new, younger team members, including Griff's cousin Carson. After feeling helpless in the situation, Griff challenges Wade and asks him to stop hazing the other players. Shortly after, steroids are found in Carson's locker, and he's suspended from the team and his reputation is ruined. Griff and Carson suspect Wade is involved, and they begin an investigation of their own to find out what Wade is up to. The truth is far more complicated and dangerous than they could have imagined.
Hardball, the tenth novel from Steven Barwin, is an action-packed, easy reading novel that will appeal to many readers. The fast pace will help keep reluctant readers motivated and give them a sense of pride when they complete the book. It is a hi-lo book, but the content can be enjoyed by readers of all abilities. Barwin uses sports fiction as a vehicle to address more complex issues related to youth. In Hardball, he is able to intersperse the action of the baseball games with the issues of bullying/hazing and drug-use. The character development is secondary to the action and pacing, and the characters are all male so its range of appeal may be limited.
Reluctant readers will be left with a sense of accomplishment when they're finished Hardball, and they'll enjoy the mix of baseball and real-life issues.
Kerri Hutchinson is a library technician with the Region of Waterloo in Waterloo, ON.
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