Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip
If you only read the title of Jordan Sonnenblick’s new book, you might think it’s going to be about baseball. But if you look at the cover, you might think it’s going to be about photography. Yet, in some ways, it’s about both and about neither. That is the beauty of Sonnenblick’s storytelling. He manages to take simple, everyday elements such as baseball and photography and transform them into a story that is much more than either one could ever be.
"[I]t’s impossible not to become invested in these characters’ lives. Just like in photography, where you know a picture is good when you see it, there’s something about CURVEBALL that captures that feeling."
Peter was heading into his freshman year with it all figured out. He was an ace baseball pitcher and dreamed about making the high school team and achieving sports superstar status along with his best friend, AJ. The last pitch of his middle-school career, though, ended his dream. Peter’s elbow was rendered useless, and the doctor informed him that he would never pitch a ball again. Without baseball, Peter is convinced that he doesn’t have an identity, and he isn’t sure how to tell AJ that he won’t be able to play ball again. So he doesn’t and instead throws himself into his other interest: photography.
Peter’s grandfather had been a photographer for what seemed like forever. He captured numerous weddings, sporting events, war footage, and, of course, Peter’s youth. Peter learned everything about photography from his grandfather --- and was hoping to learn more --- when his grandfather suddenly calls it quits one day for no reason. This unusual event gradually leads to other perplexing behavior, such as putting up post-it notes all around his house reminding him to brush his teeth, where the dishes go, and other everyday tasks. Peter just can’t accept that something could be wrong with his grandfather until he meets a girl in his photography class named Angelika.
Angelika and Peter are both thrown into the advanced photography class as freshmen because they know too much, and they eventually hit it off. Once Peter starts confiding in Angelika, though, he grows wary about what is happening with his grandfather. She is convinced that his grandfather has what her grandmother had: Alzheimer’s disease. She also figures out that he can’t play baseball again and hasn’t told AJ yet. As Angelika starts pressing him to accept the truth about many things, Peter isn’t sure he’s ready to handle all the curveballs that life is throwing his way.
Thus, CURVEBALL morphs into something that is much more powerful than a teenager lamenting the loss of a sport or learning more about photography. I’ve always appreciated the realistic nature and likability of Sonnenblick’s characters, along with the fact that he doesn’t shy away from tough situations that teens experience on an everyday basis. But all of this is wrapped inside a warm blanket of humor and enjoyment to the point where it’s impossible not to become invested in these characters’ lives. Just like in photography, where you know a picture is good when you see it, there’s something about CURVEBALL that captures that feeling.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on March 20, 2012