Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Season of Daring Greatly by Ellen Emerson White

This young adult novel about the first woman to be drafted for major league baseball is so realistic, it read like nonfiction. The coach/sports photographer author, Ellen Emerson White, writes from experience, but you don't need to be a baseball fan to enjoy A Season of Daring Greatly. Most of the drama was in the locker room/clubhouse. This feminist story focuses on the challenges and historical impact of being the first woman on a professional team.

Eighteen-year-old Jill Cafferty is a likable protagonist and a fine role model for girls. She is a skilled pitcher and a strong student but struggles with insecurity in this new and often hostile environment with too much media attention. Her Gold Star family aren't into sports, but they try to be supportive. Her father was a baseball fan who died while serving in the National Guard. It was nice to see a military family in a YA novel, and the author does a fine job of capturing how that background would shape character.

I also appreciated how the author included several diverse characters who broke stereotypes. Most of the Hispanic teammates struggle with English, but one is fluent and wealthy. The smartest member of her team is an African American on his way to medical school. Jill is white but speaks Spanish and tries to learn Japanese to make her teammates feel welcome. Although sexual attraction creates issues, the central relationships are friends and family. Her high school friends (one is gay and the other is disabled) keep in touch via text. Jill often regrets her choice not to go to college, but she keeps trying her best. Some of the most touching scenes were when Jill acted out like a normal teen and faced worse consequences.

I enjoyed the book from the engaging opening to the satisfying ending, but fewer details about food and minor characters would have sped the pace (432 pages is long for YA). I wondered why Jill didn't defer her acceptance to Stanford for a year so that she'd have a backup if pro ball wasn't a good fit for her. Then again, an all-or-nothing set up makes for higher stakes! A Season of Daring Greatly would make a fine holiday gift for a sports fan of any age. I loved the cover art too.

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@Barrie Summy


Lucy said...

Sounds like an interesting read. And I love baseball.

Thanks for reviewing.

Amanda Summer said...

I love the title. The author most likely is familiar with the quote by Theodore Roosevelt about daring greatly. I hope this finds you doing well!

Powell River Books said...

When I was young I don't remember having too many YA books other than Nancy Drew. It was either chapter books for children and adult books that they would let us check out from the library. - Margy

troutbirder said...

I love baseball and its stories fact or fiction including about girls. However this bring up a bad memory. I once taught psychology to h.s. senior and visit our elementary library to find some good bad stereo typing . Well the first book I picked our and whose name and author I've forgotten was somebody and somebody Go To Bat. The were identical twins. A boy and a girl. One day he got sick and his twin dressed up for ball and took his place at the game. Nobody knew the difference and, of course, she hit the winning home run. Naturally he got better and revealed his sisters accomplishment. On the last she was reward by getting to go all the games and got to be the "bat" girl who got to bring bats and water to her "teammates...:
Though I did manages to get that book "censored out of the library" though usually I wasn't in favor of that process and their were other like it :(

Barrie said...

Interesting! Always good to know of YA novels with strong, successful female protagonists in different situations (like baseball). I might have the opposite reaction to you re editing out some of the food details. I love reading about food. :) Thanks for reviewing!

Sarah Laurence said...

Lucy, I'd love to hear your reaction to this book!

Hi Amanda, nice to reconnect with you! I'm well, working offline on a new young adult novel set in Japan, inspired by my sabbatical there. I did not know that the title came from a Theodore Roosevelt - very cool!

Margy, yes, as much as I enjoyed Nancy Drew as a kid, I'm envious of all the YA that is available for teens now.

troutbirder, thanks for speaking out against sexist books! Rest assured that this novel confront sexism in the best way.

Barrie, I love scenes about interesting food, but there were too many scenes where the MC complained about boring unhealthy food like white bread and bologna instead of yogurt for snacks. One scene would have been enough. This book had more detail than necessary. Thanks for hosting the book review club!

Jenn Jilks said...

This sounds inspiring!!!!

troutbirder said...

Oh my I'm sorry Sarah. I happened to check back for later comments on your book review and noticed an ungodly number of typos and even missed spelled a few. The thing is I wasn't drunk or way past my bedtime! I have other possible excuses by my
English teacher wife says they won't cut it either...:(

thecuecard said...

I like the story concept: a female in MLB ... sounds great to me. I'm a sports fan. I especially like it if it seems real or rings true. What a great idea to go with. Thx for letting me know ....

Sarah Laurence said...

Jenn, it was indeed inspiring.

troutbirder, no worries! I make mistakes in my comments too.

cue, I would love to hear your reaction.

A Cuban In London said...

Well, as a baseball fan, I was certainly drawn to your review. :-)

Greetings from London.

cynthia said...

Inspiring story perfect for these times. And I agree--I love the cover!

Sarah Laurence said...

ACiL, I'd love to hear your take on this book as a baseball fan.

Cynthia, it is the right book to motivate the new wave of feminist activists, female, male and other.