Review Blog

Jul 23 2012

Shakespeare makes the playoffs by Ron Koertge

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Candlewick, 2012. ISBN 9780763658526.
Highly recommended. Shakespeare makes the playoffs is the sequel to Ron Koertge's very well received young adult novel, Shakespeare bats cleanup. Once again Koertge tells a tale of baseball and poetry and (not quite) first love in an American Middle School setting; and once again the entire work is told in verse. Like all great books, this novel transcends its subject matter to dig away at the really big questions; life, death, love and betrayal.
The whole is carefully wrapped in a finely crafted email correspondence between Kevin, the Shakespeare of the title, and Amy, his newly found poetry buddy. At no stage does Koertge get too sentimental or overly clever as he manages to draw realistic and sympathetic teenage characters struggling with the highs and lows of teenage love. Though strictly a sequel, this novel can be read as a stand-alone book easily with the main characters' backstories adeptly slotted into the narrative.
Kevin, the poetry writing first baseman of the title struggles with himself, his brain a churning mixture of emotions. His loyalty to his current girlfriend, the beautiful Mira and his growing realisation of the intellectual possibilities of the poetry writing Amy jostle, each slight shift in his feelings described in a poem.
Shakespeare makes the playoffs stands out as a shining gem in the miasma of derivative dystopian writing that makes up much of what we have lately been offered as 'Young Adult Literature'. You don't have to know or like baseball or even poetry to thoroughly enjoy this gentle, poignant story of growing up. Dare I say Ron Koertge has hit another homerun?
Stephen Bull

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