Whether it’s with her girls’ softball league or with friends in the sandlot near her house, Marnie loves playing ball. She is also a stellar pitcher. Naturally she’s a fan of her high school’s baseball team, not to mention the star pitcher Cody. But when Cody gets hit by Santino, their biggest rival’s pitcher, he’s out. Not wanting to lose their state championship, Cody asks the one pitcher to take his place whom he knows can take Santino down—Marnie. After a successful tryout and winning the position, Marnie worries about letting the team down, despite all the private coaching from Cody. And when she goes behind his back to get coaching from Santino, it makes them both question loyalty and the undeniable spark between them.
A young adult breakout novel by Kris Hui Lee, Out of Left Field is relevant, timely and bold. It’s nice to see girls stepping into a traditionally male role and finding unabashed support amidst the sexism. I love Marnie’s character with all her feistiness and fieriness; she is all about equality. She is a perfect example of how self-doubt can plague even the most talented, especially when there are high-stakes in the game (pun intended). There is also the dichotomy of genderism: Marnie struggles to be accepted for herself, but yet conform to the expectations of her teammates and her mother who wants her in a dress for her uncle’s wedding. There is also the intriguing element of complex family dynamics. Who hasn’t been forced to navigate this? As Marnie sheds her own preconceived notions about Santino, she’s also evolving to do the same within herself, believing that she can confidently lead a high school boys baseball team on to victory.
I’m a new fan of Kris Hui Lee and can easily see how a reader at any age would find this a great read. Despite the fact that this book is a home run, it’s hard to pinpoint the appropriate age since it’s a sweet yet compelling teen novel but rife with foul language (can’t help the puns). I’m not a prude, but I don’t want to offend those who’d prefer their teen not be encouraged in this way so I would consult a caregiver before gifting.