Mackey deftly throws out a winning tale narrated by a teen who moves with her parents from Chicago to Dallas in the spring of her 10th-grade year. In forthright, often funny first-person narration, Ella shares her apprehension about leaving her friends behind and starting at a new school that seems so different from her old. Her P.E. teacher suggests she join the softball team, which she agrees to, despite the fact that she's never played before ("I haven't played since I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure I can catch and hit. Throwing might be a problem"). The narrative credibly follows Ella's learning curve: though her on-field skills improve quickly, Ella is less successful at dealing with Sally, a popular, haughty teammate who comes from a troubled home. Meanwhile, a marriage project in Behavioral Science class pairs Ella with Sally's cute, kind brother, and she develops a crush on him. In a heartwarming subplot, Ella is befriended by a sympathetic softball star who had to quit the team to take care of her younger siblings after their mother died. Also affecting is Ella's very real rapport with her mother, whose understanding nature and perceptiveness the teen appreciates but won't acknowledge ("I can see her point. But I don't say so"). Triumphs both on the field and off bring this engaging novel to a satisfying finale. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Sherrie Williams
Fifteen-year-old Ella fears that her plans for her high school years are going wildly off track when her parents uproot her from a comfortable life in Chicago to move to Dallas. Uneasy in Dallas and missing her friends and social routine back home, Ella tries out for the school softball team. To her surprise, the school is so small that every girl who tries out makes the team. Through softball, she makes new friends and enemies and learns that she can bring about change in her life rather than simply let events happen to her. Empowered by her growing skills in softball as well as by directing the path of her own life, Ella learns that "throwing like a girl" can be a very positive thing. Female readers, particularly those involved in sports, will find a lot to like in this debut novel-competition, romance, and social struggles all factor strongly here. The message of personal empowerment and self-reliance for teen girls is not heavy handed, but it is effective and memorable. The softball scenes making up much of the book are authentic and made this reviewer long to put on a softball mitt again. Several subplots blend seamlessly and engage the reader to consider issues facing many teens, such as alcoholism, the death of a parent, verbal bullying, and gender inequity in scholastic sports. This book would make a solid addition to a fiction collection serving readers in grades seven and up.
Children's Literature - Kathryn Erskine
When fifteen-year-old Ella is dragged to Texas by her parents, she dreads what she will find. She feels at loose ends in her new town, new home, and new school. For lack of any other social avenue, she surprises even herself by trying out for her school's softball team. There she finds immediate friends, but also an enemy in the form of the possessive sister of a boy who pursues Ella. Full of the usual awkwardness of adolescence, Ella is also dealing with being the youngest, and now only, child left at home. Her position at school, on the team, and in the family feel fragile and amorphous. One girl, appropriately named Rocky, is solid in who she is, and solid as a friend to Ella, in spite of having to deal with far more difficult circumstances than Ella. When Ella is able to help Rocky, she grows as a person and is able to master her own traumas. A strong voice and engaging characters make this an enjoyable read.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9 - When Ella and her parents move from Chicago to Dallas in March, she resigns herself to finishing her sophomore year without friends. Her first-person narration of week one at Spring Valley Day School realistically portrays the insecurities of being the outsider amid well-established cliques. Things fall quickly into place for Ella, though: she gets matched up with Nate, a popular senior, for a marriage project in her Behavioral Science class, and although she has never played team sports, the coach recognizes her natural athletic ability and encourages her to try out for softball. The plot is predictable: underdog team starts out slow but comes together through perseverance and hard work to shine by season's end. While Nate is everything a girl could hope for, his younger sister Sally (also a softball player) takes an instant dislike to Ella and tries to sabotage the budding relationship, adding a bit of tension. The story is formulaic and most of the characters remain two-dimensional, but the action moves along at a brisk pace. Mackey's love of the game clearly comes through and the themes of friendship and sportsmanship are strong. This is feel-good chick lit that will appeal to reluctant readers and sports fans.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VACopyright 2007 Reed Business Information
When 15-year-old Ella Kessler moves with her parents from Chicago to Dallas, she's less than thrilled. Making her new school's softball team-even though she barely knows how to play-turns out to help Ella begin to navigate her way through the challenges of her new life-including making friends; falling for the cute, nice-guy brother of a nasty teammate; and discovering that when her playing skills vastly improve, athletic prowess is her key to increased self-understanding and self-esteem and the joy of finding her niche in the world. Here's an undemanding and pleasant-if pat-read that teen girls, sports-minded or not, will appreciate. While predictable, it demonstrates that "throwing like a girl" can mean feeling like a winner, and not just on the ball field. (Fiction. 12-14)
School Library Journal - Audio
Gr 6–10—Ella dreaded her family's move from Chicago to Dallas halfway through her sophomore year in high school. At her fancy new private school, she seems to be the only one being driven there by her mother. If only she had her license. However, things start to change when she tries out for softball, for which she surprisingly has a talent. There is also Nate, the boy she's partnered with for the schools infamous "Marriage Project, and her new friend Rocky, who has a mysterious and troubled past. Ella tries to fit all the pieces of her new life together, but there may be some things she just can't fix. Angela Dawe does a fine job at bringing Ella's inner and outer voices to life as she deals with the angst of being a teenager and pressures both on and off the field. The supporting characters are lively as well, but Nate's narration is a little one-note at times. Fans of Ann Brashares and Sarah Dessen will enjoy Macken's (Amazon Children's Pub., 2007) light, fun sports-mance.—Michaela Schied, Indian River Middle School, Philadelphia, NY