Molly is an 8th grader who recently lost her father in a car accident. Struggling with his death, and how to deal with her mother in their now seemingly empty house, Molly finds a way to stay connected to her dad: she goes out for the boys’ baseball team and hopes that her secret weapon, the knuckleball, will be what sets her apart from the other players (besides her gender, of course).
I was initially drawn to this novel because of a personal connection: a girl who develops a love of baseball because of her dad. I felt for Molly throughout the novel, as she tries to find a new place in her comfortable world that collapsed around her. She feels disconnected from her mother, a stranger in hew own home, but luckily finds a way to become grounded again: baseball. Interestingly, Molly tries out for the boys’ baseball team without much protest from the other kids at school (and without so much as a side glance from her coach…good job, coach!!) But aside from the lack of scandal, there’s still some realism there — Molly’s slightly embarrassed to be the only girl, she flounders a bit when put on the spot, and she certainly suffers at the hand of other players (mostly some jerk named Lloyd who I secretly hope gets hit really hard by a baseball, or a bat, or a fist, etc…). And maybe in 2009, a girl going out for the baseball team isn’t that big of a deal. But still, Molly sure as hell is brave. And I like that.
The last few chapters of the book lost me for a bit; I skimmed the play-by-play action of Molly’s first baseball game (forgive me…but come on, you knew they were gonna win), but overall I did enjoy the book. I’m a fan of female characters who move past just “being a girl” and end up doing great things that girls in real life can look to for guidance or inspiration. Maybe if I’d read this when I was 13, I would’ve gone out for the baseball team, too! (Well…probably not. I’m a bit clumsy…but at least I can catch).