Because of a car accident, Noah lost his father, and now Noah is in a wheelchair. He has traded baseball for bitterness, hating physical therapy and all the things that have changed. When his mom starts dating a new guy with a disgustingly cheerful fourth grade daughter, Noah decides he will do whatever it takes to prove the guy is a fake.
There are some really specific details about St. Louis and the Cardinals, which I appreciate both as a former resident and as a reader who likes to see stories set in a wide variety of a places.
Noah is difficult to like; although it is realistic that he would be upset and resentful, it's not enjoyable to spend time in that mindset. Noah reluctantly befriends a new student who seems to be on the autism spectrum, in addition to re-kindling a friendship with an independent-minded girl. He also connects with an old neighbor who enjoys coaching baseball, and enjoys a rivalry with a former baseball teammate throughout the book. All these relationships, in addition to tension with his mother and her new friend, have potential to be interesting, but they don't quite click into a whole unit.
I appreciated the author's treatment of Noah being in a wheelchair, since it was a matter-of-fact part of his life, in addition to physical therapy. Some readers might not consider these every-day details, and they were presented authentically rather than being hammered at the reader.
Some comedic elements weren't my speed, but the target middle school audience may be more amenable to those parts. Similarly, I kept cringing as Noah made a string of bad choices, but real people do, so I think readers will connect. There are moments of honesty in this book that are notably real, like the scene in the doctor's office, or Noah's frustration, a surprise burn from one character, and an unappreciated perspective from another. This honesty is the real appeal of this story.
" What I see is a pathetic, dusty crippled kid lying in a heap on the ground as a really cute girl tries to help him like she's his mom or something . . . I'm a passenger in my own body, and I freaking hate where it's taking me."
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