Originally published in School Library Journal, June 2019.
Gr. 6 & Up: Seventeen year old Texas teen Ryan Russell knows baseball. Her parents, though divorced, share ownership of the Buckley Beavers minor league team, keeping her busy with a goal to become general manager. Ryan’s assisted with new players before, but Sawyer Campbell is refreshingly different. A 1st round draft pick from Georgia and son of a watermelon farmer, Campbell is hardworking and smart. He’s easy on the eyes, too, but Ryan knows the strict rules on dating players. Both teens futures are uncertain: financial trouble for the watermelon farm and a possible sale of the Buckley Beavers. As they spend time together, Ryan receives praise and respect like never before, making it difficult to stick to the rules and stay out of the rumor spotlight. Teaming up with Sawyer seemed like a great idea until the walls Ryan has put up start to crumble. Will they be able to salvage the team and their relationship before the final inning. Themes of baseball, family, and first love are woven together with rich, realistic detail due to the author’s own background with minor league baseball. VERDICT: Wallace’s contemporary, lighthearted romance is squeaky clean and will appeal to both tweens and teens.
Originally appeared in School Library Journal, November 2018.
Grade 7 & Up: A diverse cast of characters take part in the Penultimate, an Ohio state writing competition, where 100 teens battle for a full college scholarship. Mary Sofia (a Latina) lives in a shelter. Her mother blames her for the unforgettable, tragic night her abusive stepfather was killed by her older brother Matias, as he protected Mary Sofia. She longs to visit Matias in prison, missing him dearly. Michael, Caucasian, is an introvert who excels at swimming and writing, who is instantly attracted to Mary Sofia. Camera who is shy and biracial carries a secret of being sexually assaulted during a party. Raiden is a Chinese American teen who dreams of becoming a nurse, though his father would rather he be a doctor. The four young people conveniently pair up into couples, forming a foreseeable cozy group for the remainder of the story. One of the contest themes is writing about “a defining moment,” which forces both Camera and Mary Sofia to finally come to terms with their painful pasts. The story line is realistic with hints of tame romance. After an unlikely turn of events for the new friends, the predictable yet hopeful ending offers each an unexpected chance at a brighter future. Compared to other realistic teen fiction, Wolfe’s second novel falls short in pacing and writing quality. Themes of friendship and typical teenage behaviors are represented well. VERDICT A strictly additional purchase.