Reviews

from Publisher's Weekly, May 2007

Mackey deftly throws out a winning tale narrated by a teen who moves with her parents from Chicago to Dallas in the spring of her 10th-grade year. In forthright, often funny first-person narration, Ella shares her apprehension about leaving her friends behind and starting at a new school that seems so different from her old. Her P.E. teacher suggests she join the softball team, which she agrees to, despite the fact that she's never played before ("I haven't played since I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure I can catch and hit. Throwing might be a problem"). The narrative credibly follows Ella's learning
curve: though her on-field skills improve quickly, Ella is less successful at dealing with Sally, a popular, haughty teammate who comes from a troubled home. Meanwhile, a marriage project in Behavioral Science class pairs Ella with Sally's cute, kind brother, and she develops a crush on him. In a heartwarming subplot, Ella is befriended by a sympathetic softball star who had to quit the team to take care of her younger siblings after their mother died. Also affecting is Ella's very real rapport with her mother, whose understanding nature and perceptiveness the teen appreciates but won't acknowledge ("I can see her point. But I don't say so"). Triumphs both on the field and off bring this engaging novel to a satisfying finale.

from Booklist, March 15, 2007

Ella, whose family has moved mid-semester from Chicago to Dallas, tells this gentle yet upbeat, story. Trying hard to figure out how to be 15 and living in a new place, she discovers softball as a way to make a new life. She loves her coach, loves learning the game, and even begins to appreciate the construction crew who, working nearby, form a sort of cheering section for the girls. When a talented and popular senior, Nate, is chosen as her partner for a class where students learn life skills, she’s nonplussed, and then must put up with his sister’s catty abuse. The practice, drill, and habit of softball are truly limned (Mackey was a coach in Dallas), and it’s genuinely fun to see how Ella handles her conflicting emotions about, well, everything. It may be unlikely that Ella and Nate hold off kissing until after their prom date, but readers will be delighted with how well the athletics and the girly stuff work in tandem.

from Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007

Making her new school's softball team—even though she barely knows how to play—turns out to help Ella begin to navigate her way through the challenges of her new life—including making friends; falling for the cute, nice-guy brother of a nasty teammate; and discovering that when her playing skills vastly improve, athletic prowess is her key to increased self-understanding and self-esteem and the joy of finding her niche in the world.

from School Library Journal, May 2007

Mackey's love of the game clearly comes through and the themes of friendship and sportsmanship are strong. This is feel-good chick lit that will appeal to reluctant readers and sports fans.

from Children's Literature, May 2007

When fifteen-year-old Ella is dragged to Texas by her parents, she dreads what she will find. She feels at loose ends in her new town, new home, and new school. For lack of any other social avenue, she surprises even herself by trying out for her school's softball team. There she finds immediate friends, but also an enemy in the form of the possessive sister of a boy who pursues Ella. Full of the usual awkwardness of adolescence, Ella is also dealing with being the youngest, and now only, child left at home. Her position at school, on the team, and in the family feel fragile and amorphous. One girl, appropriately named Rocky, is solid in who she is, and solid as a friend to Ella, in spite of having to deal with far more difficult circumstances than Ella. When Ella is able to help Rocky, she grows as a person and is able to master her own traumas. A strong voice and engaging characters make this an enjoyable read.

from VOYA, June 2007

Fifteen-year-old Ella fears that her plans for her high school years are going wildly off track when her parents uproot her from a comfortable life in Chicago to move to Dallas. Uneasy in Dallas and missing her friends and social routine back home, Ella tries out for the school softball team. To her surprise, the school is so small that every girl who tries out makes the team. Through softball, she makes new friends and enemies and learns that she can bring about change in her life rather than simply let events happen to her. Empowered by her growing skills in softball as well as by directing the path of her own life, Ella learns that "throwing like a girl" can be a very positive thing.

Female readers, particularly those involved in sports, will find a lot to like in this debut novel—competition, romance, and social struggles all factor strongly here. The message of personal empowerment and self-reliance for teen girls is not heavy handed, but it is effective and memorable. The softball scenes making up much of the book are authentic and made this reviewer long to put on a softball mitt again. Several subplots blend seamless and engage the reader to consider issues facing many teens, such as alcoholism, the death of a parent, verbal bullying, and gender inequity in scholastic sports. This book would make a solid addition to a fiction collection serving readers in grades seven and up.

Chicks with Mitts Unite! You can order Throwing Like a Girl by Weezie Kerr Mackey on amazon.com or at your local bookstore.

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