Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Comeback Season

Smith, Jennifer E. 2008. The Comeback Season.

Opening Day at Wrigley Field isn't always April 8. It's not like Christmas or the Fourth of July, with their dependable calendar slots, the reassurance of a fixed number.

Ryan Walsh is a baseball loving teen who is still aching over the loss of her father--five years or so previous--her mother and sister may have moved on...her mother has remarried and is expecting a baby even. But Ryan can never forget her father--the man who taught her how to keep score while watching the game. The man who passed on his love for the Cubs. That the anniversary of his death should fall on Opening Day? A sign that she should skip school and go to the game.

Ryan is in many ways a girl after my own heart--"she doesn't care about makeup or jewelry, and has grown used to getting the once-over for her lack of fashion sense, an up-and-down stare reminiscent of the way her mom studies produce at the grocery store. Ryan prefers ponytails to curling irons, the soapy smell of her shampoo to the fruity ones all the other girls use. She feels most put together when wearing jeans, and she would never trade her flip-flops for a pair of heels. And mostly, she's okay with this." (27) And this telling passage as well--"Given the choice between future and past, she would always and without hesitation choose to move backward, and for years she has lingered through her life in this way, loitering and meandering, a wanderer with the most aimless of intentions." (38)

On that fateful day, April 8, Ryan meets Nick. Okay, so they've been going to the same school together. And true, she's seen him around enough to know that he's her classmate. But on this day--the two share a purpose--to catch the Cubs game. The two begin talking, chatting, and soon it looks like a beautiful friendship is born. Could it be more than friendship? Ryan certainly hopes so. There is an easiness, a rightness, about when they are together. Perhaps Nick says it best, "Sometimes I feel like talking to you is the same as talking to myself. Like you already know all there is to know, so there's no point in explaining..." (123) For Ryan to find love with Nick, she'll have to risk her heart--risk that it could be broken once more.

The Comeback Season is a bittersweet novel about life, love, hope, and redemption. You don't have to love baseball to love this novel. (Though if you do, it might mean that much more to you.) Ryan Walsh is a character that I won't soon be forgetting. I ache when she does. And her hope became my hope.

This is Jennifer E. Smith's first novel, and it is definitely recommended.

Other reviews: The Compulsive Reader, Not Acting My Age, TeenSpace Blog, Shooting Stars Mag, The Story Siren, Let(t)'er Rip, A Patchwork of Books.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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