A Season of Daring Greatly
Jill is eighteen, with a scholarship to Stanford that her mother really wants her to take, but she also happens to be a baseball pitcher with talent so impressive that she's drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates (which she learns in the middle of her Spanish final). Being the first female professional baseball player isn't easy - some of the players and fans are horrible, and the media pressure is intense for someone young and away from home for the first time. Still grieving the loss of her father, Jill has a strong support system at home - but will it be enough? Will she be enough?
The most important thing to observe here is that I am a huge fan of The President's Daughter series by this author, and Jill's character and world are pretty similar to Meg's - so that was weird, but also okay because I love Meg and I'm always happy to read more. Jill is the first professional female baseball player, and Meg's mother is the first female U.S. President. Jill's best friend is going through physical therapy to reliably move from her wheelchair to a cane before college after an accident took away her athletic endeavors, while Meg has to deal with grueling physical therapy after a violent encounter before and during her first year of college. Both deal with the press as an adversary, both enjoy a quirky sense of humor (although Meg's is better), both are determined not to show emotion or reveal much to people they don't trust. There is also the use of some of the same odd phrases you'd never discover in other books for this age group, like characters who say "I daresay" or the phrase "And how," the use of "wicked" as an adjective, or obscure references to very old musical theatre references. The similarities are overwhelming.
However, this book on its own is an exploration of baseball, the pressure of being the first person to break a barrier, and dealing with scrutiny while challenging yourself. If you aren't a baseball fan, there may be terms you don't recognize, but there's still plenty to enjoy about the book. Jill's strength is admirable, but she is also more likable because she isn't just a robot with a single goal - she has options, and she's not certain she's on the right path. She's not a quitter, but she doubts herself. Unfortunately, the other characters are not as well-rounded; there are many characters and hanging threads that suggest an impending sequel, and since this book was published in 2017, there's still time. As it stands, the ending feels abrupt; I definitely wanted to know more about Jill's career than the book offered.
Some mature content makes this book less appropriate for some upper elementary readers.
"Mostly, the people cheered and shouted encouraging things, although there were also quite a few catcalls of the 'Go back to softball!' variety, and some exceedingly profane and obscene remarks, along with - yes - people holding protest signs. Because, of course, her very existence on the planet was already desecrating baseball." p. 74
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