Playing the Field [NOOK Book]

Overview

McKay has to quit the baseball team if he doesn't bring his algebra grade up. His best friend Tony thinks the natural solution is for McKay to befriend Serena, a pretty girl who aces algebra. Unfortunately, playing this game isn't so easy. McKay will keep readers alternately laughing and groaning as he is dragged kicking and screaming into the subtle (and often not so subtle) world of teen dating.

Thirteen-year-old McKay tries to keep up his algebra grade to stay on...

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Playing the Field

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Overview

McKay has to quit the baseball team if he doesn't bring his algebra grade up. His best friend Tony thinks the natural solution is for McKay to befriend Serena, a pretty girl who aces algebra. Unfortunately, playing this game isn't so easy. McKay will keep readers alternately laughing and groaning as he is dragged kicking and screaming into the subtle (and often not so subtle) world of teen dating.

Thirteen-year-old McKay tries to keep up his algebra grade to stay on the baseball team, while dealing with his attraction to a girl named Serena.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA
Life throws thirteen-year-old McKay Conford a curve when he earns a poor grade in algebra. His parents will not let him play baseball unless he, the most talented guy on a team bound for a championship, can pull his grade up. When his best friend, Tony, suggests that McKay ask pretty, straight-A student Serena to tutor him, the real game begins. Tony puts the moves on Serena's two best friends, foul fielding which lands McKay in the middle. Frustration mounts as he tries to convince his parents to move his five-year-old brother out of their bedroom and change their rule of no dating until sixteen. Trying to impress Serena, he sprains his ankle, further letting down the team. Wondrously, all turns out well. This light, sometimes humorous peek at the life of a young teen discovering that girls are different, privacy is to be relished, and dating can ruin friendships is written in first-person narrative. It is difficult, however, to relate to McKay fretting about the color of bedroom walls or curtains. Moreover, would a teen hide his messy locker from a girl, fearing her disappointment at the sight? Some phrases such as "pretzelized my bike" will make the more mature reader cringe. Even the book cover looks childish, and McKay's life's complications are tame. Although the characters really are not fleshed out, McKay has a good family, and his friends and acquaintances all seem to have idyllic lives. There is just no hook to catch the more mature reader—no angst, no pain, no suffering. A teen read it is not. VOYA CODES: 3Q 1P M (Readable without serious defects; No YA will read unless forced to for assignments; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2002, Walker, 180p,
— CherylKarp Ward
Children's Literature
Ostensibly about sports, this winning middle-grade novel is really about being 13 years old in America. The lead character, a boy named McKay, lives and dies for baseball, but unless he brings up his algebra grade, his parents will make him quit the team. The best math student he knows might be able to help, but she's female. How can he get help with his algebra without plunging into the scary world of boy-girl relationships? Rallison is wonderful at painting the early-teen universe of "going together" and "breaking up" without the necessity of actual dates. No wonder McKay is more interested in baseball, which at least has specific rules of conduct. Rallison's writing is breezy, but it is also touching and true. She also has the courage to make an unconventional choice. "Everything got so complicated when you started dating," McKay thinks to himself. "I didn't want to get stuck in some note-passing, hallway-glaring, second-guessing junior high melodrama triangle. I wanted things to be the way they were when Serena and I were just goofing around, doing our algebra." Not a bad choice, really, when you have the rest of your life to woo women, but only a few years to be a kid. 2002, Walker & Company,
— Donna Freedman
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Thirteen-year-old McKay has to improve his algebra grade or he'll have to quit the baseball team. His friend Tony thinks the solution to his dilemma is to get to know Serena, a pretty girl with a history of straight A's. If McKay can convince her that he likes her, then he'll have the help he needs and Tony can flirt with her two friends. Everything works beautifully until Serena uncovers the plot, and her friends become enemies when Tony turns out to be a less-than-suave boyfriend. McKay's grade improves, but he takes no satisfaction from all the effort without Serena to share in his success, because he really does like her. He also has to deal with his little brother who shares his room and keeps getting into all his stuff, and parents who just don't seem to understand that an eighth grader needs a room of his own. Rallison uses humor and realistic characters to bring the boy's problems to a satisfying conclusion. The protagonist is genuine, honest, and endearing without being sappy or pathetic next to the more Casanovalike Tony. Plus, this book is really funny. It should be a hit with anybody interested in boys, girls, baseball, friends, and that mysterious world of a first crush.-Linda Bindner, formerly at Truman State University, Kirksville, MO Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
“The protagonist is genuine, honest, and endearing. . . . Plus, this book is really funny. It should be a hit with anybody interested in boys, girls, baseball, friends, and that mysterious world of a first crush.” —School Library Journal

“[T]he lesson is delivered without lectures, in a set of situations that readers will have little trouble relating to, and through the eyes of a likable hero.” —Booklist

“Rallison treats the guys’ fumbling dating debuts with humor and a good measure of compassion.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940032892748
  • Publisher: Janette Rallison
  • Publication date: 11/27/2011
  • Sold by: Smashwords
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 374,817
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • File size: 459 KB

Meet the Author

Janette Rallison

Janette Rallison (who is also sometimes CJ Hill when the mood strikes her) is the award winning author of 13 novels young adult novels which have sold over a million copies. Her books have also been on the IRA Young Adults’ Choices lists, Popular Picks, and many state reading lists. Most of her books are romantic comedies because hey, there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage of both humor and romance. In her blog, she discusses the funny side of being a YA author janette-rallison.blogspot.com/ She lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids, and enough cats to classify her as eccentric.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Mrs. Swenson was one of those teachers who probably got into the profession because she enjoyed making dour expressions. Her expression was especially dour when she gave me the news: "Mr. Conford, unless your test scores improve, and you start doing your homework, you're going to fail algebra."

    Mrs. Swenson likes to call us by our last names. I guess it sounds more dour.

    When my parents found out about my algebra grade, they used my first name. Repeatedly. With increased volume every time they said it.

    "McKay, why haven't you been doing your homework?"

    I had been doing it. I just hadn't been doing it right.

    "McKay, why didn't you study for your last test?"

    I did. Sort of. During the commercial breaks. I mean, it's October for heaven's sake, and the World Series is on.

    "McKay, if you can't do the work right, you'll have to get a tutor and pay for it with your own money."

    With the amount of allowance I got, I couldn't afford to hire anyone who actually knew more about algebra than I did. (By the way, I didn't actually say any of this, I just thought it. I may be failing algebra, but I'm not stupid.)

    "McKay, if your grade hasn't improved at least to a C by the end of the quarter, you'll have to drop off the baseball team. That gives you just over a month to turn your grade around."

    My parents know how to pack a threat. Granted, at the momentI was just playing fall ball. The regular season wouldn't start until spring, but baseball was a way of life for me, and I couldn't imagine not playing it. Besides, this year the league was having a districtwide fall ball tournament at the end of November, and my team was sure to win. I had to play.

    I don't know why adults are so hung up on algebra, anyway. Why should I care what the letter x equals, when 4x + 7 +8x = 43? I have my life all figured out, and it doesn't involve algebra. I'm going to be a professional baseball player. All the math I'll need to know is how to add runs, how to average batting scores, and of course, how to calculate interest on all of the money I'll make. I don't care which train reaches Philadelphia first—the one leaving from New York and traveling 55 m.p.h. or the one leaving from Washington, D.C., going 40 m.p.h. I live in Gilbert, Arizona. When I'm a professional ballplayer and do start to travel, I'm going to use a private jet.

    I've tried to explain this to Mrs. Swenson. On the last test when she asked one of those stupid train questions, I wrote, "Professional ballplayers let their managers worry about their travel schedules."

    Mrs. Swenson has no sense of humor. When I'm famous, I'm never going to autograph a baseball for her.

    That night I sat down at the kitchen table and tried to do the next day's assignment. I wrote 2x² + 12x = -18 neatly on my piece of paper. Then I stared at the mysterious x for a while, hoping it would give me some hint as to its identity. I tried to remember how Mrs. Swenson had explained these problems to the class, but I hadn't been listening carefully, so I didn't get very far.

    When Mom walked by, I asked her if she could help me figure it out. She sat down next to me at the table and picked up the book. She scanned over the equations and then said, "It's been a long time since I've done this type of math problem." She tapped my pencil against the table, then wrote down some numbers. "Let's see, I think you're supposed to divide both sides of the equation by twelve, wait, that's not it ..." She wrote down a few more numbers, then scribbled them out.

    "Just wait till they put those equations on trains and send them off to Philadelphia," I told her.

    She laid down the pencil and said, "Maybe your father will remember how to do this stuff."

    We looked at one another silently for a moment. Dad is the one who refuses to balance the checkbook because he can't get his figures to match the bank's. He sits at the kitchen table, shaking his head at the bank statement, and insists that the bank has messed up again and computers can't be trusted.

    Mom let out a sigh. "Or maybe we really are going to have to get you a tutor."

    I pulled my paper back in front of me and stared down at it with determination. "I don't need a tutor." My allowance doesn't even cover the cost of decently updating my baseball card collection. The last thing I wanted was another expense. "I'll call Tony and see if he knows how to do this."

    Mom raised an eyebrow. Tony is my best friend, but not the best at algebra. "Isn't there someone else in your class you could ask?"

    "I'll ask Tony first."

    "Well, don't spend too long on the phone. Remember, you don't do anything with friends until your homework is done."

    "I know, I know." I picked up my math book and trudged over to the phone. I bet Cal Ripkin Jr.'s mother had never given him these types of lectures when he was growing up.

    Tony tried to explain the assignment to me, but it still didn't make a lot of sense. I just couldn't get some of the equations to work out. Instead of my trains meeting anywhere, I think they both got derailed in hideous wrecks.

    My dad wasn't much more help when he got home. Before bed he looked over my algebra problems, but it was really only a symbolic gesture. It was only because my mom made him. He held my paper up and got a studious look on his face. "Well. Yes. I see. Very interesting." He put the paper down and nodded, "It's nice to know some things never change. After all these years, we're still searching for the meaning of x."

    My mom glared at him, but he ignored her and leaned closer to me. "This is exactly the reason I became a plumber."

    Mom said, "Bill, you're not helping."

    "Well, I would if he ever brought home assignments about installing water lines."

    In a lower tone Mom told him, "United we stand, divided we get kid-sized footprints on our faces."

    "Uh, right," Dad said. Then he patted my shoulder. "Do your algebra, go to college, and become an aerospace engineer."

    Mom rolled her eyes. "If you're not being serious with McKay now, how do you expect him to take us seriously when we tell him he has to pass algebra or quit baseball?"

    Dad said, "I told him to do his algebra. What's not serious about that?"

    "I think I understand it now," I said because I hate it when my parents fight.

    Mom looked at me skeptically. "You understand it now?"

    "Yeah. Tony did a good job of explaining it to me. See. I finished all of the problems." I picked up my paper and showed it to her.

    She looked it over. "X equals 5.342? Shouldn't x be a whole number like 7 or 12 or something?"

    "Not necessarily," I said.

    How could she argue the point? After all, she didn't know how to do the problems any more than I did.

    She handed me back the paper. "All right."

    "See," Dad said. "He's on his way to engineering school right now."

    Mom didn't say anything more, and she left the kitchen.

    Dad watched her leave, then said, "I don't think she likes engineers. Maybe you'd better become a brain surgeon instead."


The next day at school when we went over the assignment in class, I got twelve out of twenty right. That's only 60 percent. I may not be great at algebra, but I've been figuring out percentages since I could read the back of a baseball card. Sixty percent was a D. Not exactly the kind of grade that would get me into medical school or keep me on the baseball team.

    I felt sick for the rest of class. This time I'd really tried to do the homework, and I had still failed. All through lunch I kept saying, "I'm doomed. My baseball career is over."

    "No, it's not," Tony said. "You'll get a tutor, and you'll be fine."

    "I'm doomed, and my allowance will be gone," I said.

    "Maybe you could get someone at school to help you for free."

    "You helped me, and I only got twelve problems right."

    "Someone who's better at math than I am." Tony nodded toward the other side of the cafeteria, where Serena Kimball sat.

    Serena was good at math. In fact, Serena was good at everything. She was not only a straight-A student, but she was also the vice president of the eighth grade. Every year, while the teachers looked on in admiration, she played a piano concerto for the school talent show. In all the years I'd gone to school with her, I'd never once seen her long brown hair out of place.

    "Right," I said. "I'll just waltz up to her and ask her if she'd like to come home with me and run some equations."

    "You could at least talk to her. You know, be friendly. Chat about things. Then when you mention you're having a hard time with your math, if she likes you, she'll volunteer to help you."

    "If she likes me?" I asked. "Why would she like me?"

    "Why not?" Tony said. "If you tried, you could be"—he waved his hand over me like he was performing a magic trick—"hunk material."

    I picked up my empty sandwich bag, crumpled it up, and threw it at him.

    Tony had shown an increased interest in girls since we'd entered the eighth grade, but I still thought of them as odd creatures who couldn't throw a ball the right way and always went to the bathroom in packs. Oh, sure, there had been Stephanie Morris in kindergarten—we held hands during recess, and she told me she wanted to marry me. But after a couple of weeks of us walking around like a small paper-doll chain, she said she'd decided to marry Randall Parker instead. No explanation. She led Randall around the playground for the next few weeks until she got tired of him, and then she started holding hands with Bobby Friedman.

    That's when I decided girls were more trouble than they were worth.

    Still, I looked over at Serena. She was leaning across the table and telling her friend, Rachel, something. Both of their faces were animated and laughing. The end of Serena's hair brushed against the table, and her face tilted sideways like she was about to tell Rachel a secret. I tried to imagine Serena sitting at my kitchen table, talking and laughing like that. Somehow it just didn't seem likely.

    Tony nudged me again. "Serena would be tons better than a paid tutor. Don't you remember that tutor my sister got for her French class? It was some college student who spit when he talked and smelled funny. You don't want to pay some guy to come over to your house and spit at you, do you?" He nodded toward Serena again. "Trust me, Serena's the way to go. You just have to think of some casual way to talk to her."

    "Like what?"

    "You know, go up to her and say something."

    I looked from Serena back to Tony. "Like what?"

    Tony wadded up his lunch sack and made a hook shot into the garbage can. "Don't you know anything about girls?" When I looked at him blankly, he said, "It's a game. The next best game after baseball. Only instead of a bat to get on base, you use your words and dashing smile."

I gave him my most skeptical look.

     "Watch a master at work. I'm about to turn on the old Manetti charm."

    Ever since Tony had noticed girls, he'd been drawing upon his Italian heritage to help him radiate charm. He was also working on what he called a "cool walk." It was sort of a cross between a rooster strut and a cowboy swagger, although sometimes when he didn't coordinate it right, it looked like he had something stuck on the bottom of his shoes, and he was trying to scrape it off. Now he walked up to Serena's table doing the cool walk, and his strut and his swagger were almost perfectly timed. I followed him with my hands shoved into my pockets.

    "Hi, Rachel. Hi, Serena." He stopped a couple of feet away from them. "What are you guys doing?"

    Rachel and Serena glanced at each other, then looked back at us with somewhat puzzled expressions. "We're eating lunch," Rachel said.

    "Right," Tony said. "We just finished."

    "Oh," Serena said.

    I gulped and swallowed, and mostly looked at Serena's shoes.

    "The lunch was pretty good today," Tony said.

    "Oh, really?" Rachel said. "We brought sack lunches."

    So had we. I was glad the girls didn't know this little fact, as they would have thought we were total idiots. As it was now, we might be able to escape this situation with the girls only thinking we were partial idiots.

    "Yeah," Tony said. "Lunch was good."

    The girls nodded at us with the same patronizing stare you use when you're talking to four-year-olds.

    "I guess we'll be going now," Tony said.

    "Okay," Rachel said.

    As we turned and walked to the door, I could hear the girls erupt into giggles. I was glad my back was to them so they couldn't see my face turn red. I shook my head at Tony and said, "That was a master at work?"

    "It was a start," Tony said.

    "I think it was a strikeout."

    Tony pushed the cafeteria door open with more force than he needed to. "It was breaking the ice. Now it will be easier to talk to them next time."

    "Next time?" Even though we were out of the cafeteria, I could still hear Serena and Rachel's laughter in my mind. I shook my head again, and walked a little faster. "I think I'd rather pay all of my allowance to have some funny-smelling college student come over and spit at me."

    "Okay," Rachel said.

    As we turned and walked to the door, I could hear the girls erupt into giggles. I was glad my back was to them so they couldn't see my face turn red. I shook my head at Tony and said, "That was a master at work?"

    "It was a start," Tony said.

    "I think it was a strikeout."

    Tony pushed the cafeteria door open with more force than he needed to. "It was breaking the ice. Now it will be easier to talk to them next time."

    "Next time?" Even though we were out of the cafeteria, I could still hear Serena and Rachel's laughter in my mind. I shook my head again, and walked a little faster. "I think I'd rather pay all of my allowance to have some funny-smelling college student come over and spit at me."


Excerpted from Playing the Field by Janette Rallison. Copyright © 2002 by Janette Rallison. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2003

    Trivial, Slow Moving

    All one dimensional characters. No plot to speak of. Very slow reading. The point here is to wait till your 16 to date, learn your algebra in case you're not major league material and eat your wheaties. Teens will not relate to this title. It is the author's first attempt to write a teen novel. I feel this is children's material.

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2012

    Absolutly loved it!!!

    This book was amazing and kept me wanting to read more and more, i was done witin 2 hours lol GREAT READ!!!!!:)<3

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2012

    How many pages?

    Are there more than 150pgs?

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2004

    A great book for teens 13 up!

    I really liked this book because I learned a very good lesson from this book, and now I understand why parents say you can't date till your around sixteen years old. Because when your thirteen and fourteen your not yet mature enough for the troubling situations in a real relationship. This is why i recommend this book to any one who is having trouble with a not real relationship.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2014

    To how many pages

    Its 285 pages.....and a good book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    A fun book for tweens

    If you're looking for a light, fun read this is a good one to go with. No dark, teen angst here.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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