Title IX Education Act, which mandated equality between men and women athletics in schools, was passed in 1972. Although it greatly expanded women athletic programs and dramatically increased participation in sports by girls, it is surprising how few YA titles with "girl" athlete protagonists are out there! My card catalog, of course, lists Crutcher, Coy, Lipsyte, Deuker, Lynch and the other usual authors, but where are the female authors and their novels featuring girl athletes? Not that many "girl jock" readers? Other than the Catherine Gilbert Murdock books and Liz Tigelaar's Playing With The Boys, the ACHS library's sparse collection is hardly representative. Well, author and MS teacher Sara Griffiths is trying to level the literary playing field!
At the end of her impressive debut novel, Thrown A Curve (2007) ( see ABookandAHug.com review), fourteen-year-old Taylor Dresden summarized what she has learned by the end of her high school freshman year – “...both the worst and best year of my life. I've learned a lot...Justin taught me to see the good in everyone...Trudy taught me how to laugh at myself...I may have learned the most from my father...As for me, I taught myself...the game of life is hard, but that's also what makes it great."
Singled Out, the sequel, continues both the compelling coming-of-age story and further develops and rounds out of the main character. After aimlessly adrift for a couple of years, it is now Taylor's senior year. Because of her ability to throw a 78 mile an hour fastball, she and her dad (why her mother is absent is later revealed) have her accept a baseball scholarship to the prestigious Hazelton private high school, which has just opened its enrollment to girls. Unfortunately, a clique of hostile and resentful male students calling themselves the "Statesmen" intimidate everyone and bully and conspire to get Taylor and the other two girls either kicked out or leave. While she has to manage this problem, she also must acquire study skills to get her grades up -- all of us in education know late bloomers. It is refreshing to encounter a "cool" YA character who also cares about academic achievement. Taylor not only finishes reading Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo (my library copy is over 1400 pages) but its theme influences her decision on how to handle the bullying.
Will she fit in or remain alienated? Will she make the baseball team and as starting pitcher win? Will she pass Trig? Is the good looking Sam a friend or foe? What about her mother? The author sets up questions and situations pertinent to most teens. The writer's style is deceptively simple yet offers substance and guidance. Not just reluctant readers will keep turning the pages for the answers. As with her first literary stand up double, even the anemic curiosity of the "deadheads" will be sufficiently revived to finish this book. More importantly, they might even mimic the character's endearing attributes and values or even adopt for themselves some of the positive solutions from this 171 page novel.
Besides the standard literary elements, I judge a YA title by asking the following: Do I know students like the book's characters? Do or would the young adults I know behave or react like the book's characters? Can students relate to the characters? How about your own kids? I give a unanimous yes! Singled Out is a home run.
But a high interest YA novel without sex or drugs, and little swearing or bad language that will be read? Surely, you jest? No, I kid you not. Just as with adults, there really are numerous teens out there who do converse in complete sentences, and do conscientiously choose not to use the "F" word! Recommended and I would advise multiple copies of both titles.
Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, High School Librarian, Kansas,USA