Review Detail

Middle Grade Fiction 170
Deep emotions of racism
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The story is told through the eyes of Wyatt which helps readers experience his frustrations, determination, and anger. Unfairness and racism are large issues and he has a difficult time dealing with them. However, the coach constantly criticizes Wyatt and singles him out for doing things that other players get away with. Then, another student makes racial comments that demean Wyatt’s heritage and are reminiscent of bigots from decades ago. He tries to handle the insults but his best friend Dallas talks him out of making rash decisions. Being inside Wyatt’s mind allows readers to see the challenges faced by the targets of prejudice. Wyatt is the target of hurtful, cruel comments but society probably won’t understand if he acts on his furious feelings. He doesn’t tell his parents the full story of what’s happening to him and he slowly withdraws into his own misery. His father has issues from his childhood that still haunt him, but like Wyatt, he keeps painful memories locked up inside him.
The Rule of Three. Wyatt has a three-part plan for success and it begins with playing for the only traveling baseball team in town. Also, he faces tricky decisions throughout the book and the author shares three different scenarios he might face depending on what he chooses. Usually, one is ignoring the situation, two is what he wants to do, and three is what might be socially “acceptable”. The narrator describes Wyatt’s three different levels of anger with level three being when he loses control of his emotions. Needless to say, he reaches this level a few times which results in his body emitting clouds of smoke. This family curse is embarrassing and Wyatt can’t figure out any way to calm his emotions. The author includes another three-part plan to help Wyatt and his father control their reactions to stress.
Wyatt’s relationship with his best friend Dallas presents a curious situation. Dallas is an excellent pitcher and she also wants to make the travel team. She’s a descendant of indigenous people who had their land taken away so is hurt by racism too. Dallas can empathize with Wyatt’s troubles and offers him support and advice. However, Wyatt gets upset when she won’t go along with his ideas which she thinks will only make matters worse. Wyatt begins to push her away as his emotions spiral out of control and readers will hope for a reconciliation. It takes him a while to realize he needs help and support to begin rebuilding his life.
What didn’t work as well:
It’s clear that Dallas is Wyatt’s best friend but his relationships with Asher and Cabot aren’t as well defined. Cabot is supposed to be a good friend too but that isn’t developed as well. Asher is more of an annoying acquaintance who provides conflict in Wyatt’s life. It’s not clear why he’s tolerated.
The final verdict:
This book offers an innovative scenario concerning racism and the conflicting feelings it creates. The inclusion of a strange, humiliating reaction to emotional trauma adds a fascinating subplot. Overall, I recommend you give this thought-provoking book a shot.
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