The Sweet Spot
Author: Stacy Barnett Mozer
Published March 25th, 2016 by Spellbound River Press
Summary: When thirteen-year-old Sam Barrette’s baseball coach tells her that her attitude’s holding her back, she wants to hit him in the head with a line drive. Why shouldn’t she have an attitude? As the only girl playing in the 13U league, she’s had to listen to boys and people in the stands screaming things like “Go play softball,” all season, just because she’s a girl. Her coach barely lets her play, even though she’s one of the best hitters on the team.
All stakes now rest on Sam’s performance at baseball training camp. But the moment she arrives, miscommunication sets the week up for potential disaster. Placed at the bottom with the weaker players, she will have to work her way up to A league, not just to show Coach that she can be the best team player possible, but to prove to herself that she can hold a bat with the All-Star boys.
Review: I wish I was Sam. I love baseball, but like most girls, softball is really the only option. I right away had a direct connection with Sam because she was living a dream I had when I was younger. But I also know how hard it is to cross gender barriers. As a “tomboy” you are constantly questioned and made fun of, so to be so out in the spotlight, Sam definitely feels she needs to prove herself. As a female, there are so many moments in this book that seem too real and really made me angry: she is called emotional just because she is passionate, people act as if she is fragile and can’t take care of herself, and her talent is constantly questioned. And when she stands up for herself, she is told to take a joke or calm down. Even outside of the scenario of playing baseball, these are things that woman are going to here–from males and other females!
But in addition to this too-real reflection of life, Sam’s story will hit home with anyone who has tried to do something that others thought they couldn’t. Or anyone who has been somewhere that they don’t fit in. Or anyone who has been underestimated in general.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to adding this title to any library for middle school students, I also envision Sweet Spot as a lit circle or book club title. It has so much to talk about, and it would definitely fit in with other books that have the big idea of an underdog. It could also definitely be paired with Zootopia!
Discussion Questions: What stereotypical statements do characters say to Sam throughout the book? How does she overcome these assumptions people made about her?; Sam is called emotional; however, if a boy was acting the same way as her, how would he described in the sports world? Why do you think there is a double standard?; How is Sam’s experience at baseball camp different than what she expected?; How does Mike grow throughout the book? How does Sam?
Flagged Passages: “Laughter and chants fill my ears as I step up to the plate.
‘Is that a ponytail?’
‘Go back to softball!’
I take a deep breath and clear my head. It’s not like I haven’t heard it all before.
The pitcher motions for the fielders to move in, then goes into his wind-up, making a big show of the ease at which he will strike me out. I bite my lip and focus.
The ball comes in. I judge the timing and location of my swing–then swing a bit lower.
I take a step back and pretend to be upset. The hooting gets louder, but this time it’s easy to ignore. Out on the mound the pitcher grins. He looks around, nods at his team, and I can almost hear the ‘told you sos.’ I may have to slam the next one right at his…
Coach Duncan storms out to the plate. I give him my best, what’s up? look. The way he glares at me, I know he isn’t buying it.
‘Sam, what was that?’
‘What do you mean, Coach?’
Coach’s bulky face reddens. A drop of sweat slides down his nose. Gross.
‘Do I need to remind you that it is the bottom of the eighth, the score is 0-0, and there are two outs? Stop fooling and play ball.’
‘Bout time you let me,’ I grumble. My batting average is better than the boys on my team. Yet even today, in the 13U Championships, he kept me warming the bench until I fielded last inning.
‘You know what I mean,’ he says. He moves to go back to the bench, then stops and comes closer so only I can hear his next words.
‘And Sam,’ he says. ‘Target this guy, and there’s no way I’ll recommend you for the travel team.'” (p. 1-2)
Read This If You Love: Baseball, Coming of Age Novels, Boy Who Saved Baseball by John Ritter, Ghost by Jason Reynolds, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
And don’t miss out on book 2: The Perfect Trip
Published March 24th, 2017
Although I am not going to share the summary (SPOILERS!), I will tell you that it is a wonderful sequel to Sam’s story. Although the conflict is a bit different than the first, it really gives you more insight into Sam and Mike’s families and Sam’s struggle with proving herself.