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Publishers Weekly Review
Braden Raynor's father has instilled three values in his 16-year-old son: undying family loyalty, faith in God, and a dream of becoming a professional athlete. All three are tested when Braden's father is accused of killing a police officer in a hit-and-run accident. Braden's estranged brother, Trey, returns to take custody of Braden, while Braden grapples with his own testimony, which will help determine if his father goes free or faces the death penalty. Using baseball as a metaphor for Braden's life, debut author Gilbert intersperses Braden's stints on the pitching mound with the ongoing trial, his attempts at living with some semblance of normalcy, and flashbacks that form a scathing portrait of his father. Gilbert gives Braden a blistering fastball, though the narrative is frustratingly coy, teasing out the truth in a meandering fashion that is at times more plodding than suspenseful. But the tale remains a thorough examination of all that the title implies, spanning the court drama and challenging the beliefs of each member of this dysfunctional family. Ages 14-up. Agent: Adriann Ranta, Wolf Literary Services. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 8 Up-Braden's family appears normal, but it is actually severely dysfunctional. After Braden is abandoned by his mother, his volatile and abusive father steps up to raise him. Mart was a baseball player whose career was ended by an injury before it really started. He has put all of his aspirations on Braden's shoulders, and Braden's world becomes baseball. Mart is an emotional powder keg who metes out love and psychological abuse in equal measure. If Braden has a bad game, Mart derides him and makes him feel like a failure. Mart is a Christian radio talk show host who espouses family values and thinks homosexuality is a sin against God. He doesn't practice what he preaches, however, and is now awaiting trial for murder. Mart relies on Braden proving his love for him once and for all by lying about what happened that night. The narrative is told in flashbacks, so a narration with very distinct voices for the characters is in order. Unfortunately, Michael Crouch does not adequately differentiate among the characters. The author spends undue time on the baseball component of the novel, slowing the pacing and affecting the overall success of the audio. VERDICT This is a story with great intent that examines morality and the effect it has on a family, but, as it is, the unwieldy audiobook is not a first buy for libraries. ["The sophisticated pacing requires effort to push through; this is a multilayered story that provides meaty sustenance for those seeking insights into rifts between fathers and sons": SLJ 5/15 starred review of the Hyperion book.]-Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* High-school pitching star Braden Raynor watches helplessly as cops surround his father, Mart, who hosts an Evangelical radio show, and arrest him for the murder of a police officer. Terrified and guilt-ridden, Braden fears that he is at fault for his father's actions and that Mart acted out of love for him. Initially relieved to hear that his estranged older brother, Trey, will be coming back to act as his guardian, Braden is grieved to discover that Trey still openly despises Mart. Worse, Trey has abandoned his faith, which, along with baseball, is an essential part of Braden's bond with his father. Suspense builds as flashbacks reveal that Mart has constructed an emotionally possessive and manipulative relationship with Braden, leaving Braden to equate loyalty to his father with loyalty to God. Braden is a deeply sympathetic character, slowly coming to realize that he has been systematically broken by the only person he trusts. Gilbert respectfully and sensitively handles themes of faith, religion, and family not to mention the importance of baseball to illustrate how tightly small towns cling, often destructively, to their own. Fans of Carl Dueker's multilayered sports novels, Harlan Coben's psychological thrillers, or Bryan Bliss' No Parking at the End Times (2014) will all be captivated by Gilbert's moving debut.--Colson, Diane Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
High-school baseball star Braden's father, a Christian radio host, is accused of intentionally mowing down a police officer during a traffic stop. As Braden, who must testify in the trial, tries to piece together details of that night, he also wrestles with his estranged brother's return and the truth about why Trey left. Braden's struggles are related powerfully in this compelling debut. (c) Copyright 2015. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
When 16-year-old Braden Raynor's father is arrested for a hit-and-run accident that leaves a police officer dead, every hidden secret is dragged into the light. Braden's father is known for his aggressive stance on his evangelical radio show, but what plays well on the airwaves can be horribly destructive at home. The anger and abuse that drove Braden's older brother, Trey, away have driven Braden to be the perfect son. But in spite of his stellar talent on the pitcher's mound, his exemplary performance in school, and his strong faith in God, Braden fears he will never be enough. When Braden is called to testify on behalf of the defense, he must decide if the truth is worth risking his entire world. While the mystery of what really happened on the foggy stretch of highway is the driving force behind the narrative, it is Braden's unfolding story that will captivate readers. His father's incarceration forces Braden to admit that the father he loves is also the monster he fears. There are no easy answers. Love is both beautiful and cruel. God is both loving and mysterious. And family is both comforting and suffocating. Both hopeful and devastatingly real. (Fiction. 14 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.