Baseball brings them together—but will his secret keep them apart? Find out in this heartbreakingly beautiful novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.
The last place Ryan Walsh should be this afternoon is on a train heading to Wrigley Field. She should be in class, enduring yet another miserable day of her first year of high school. But for once, Ryan isn’t thinking about what she should be doing. She’s not worried about her lack of friends, or her suffering math grade, or how it’s been five whole years since the last time she was really and truly happy. Because she’s finally returning to the place that her father loved, where the two of them spent so many afternoons cheering on their team. And on this—the fifth anniversary of his death—it feels like there’s nowhere else in the world she should be.
Ryan is once again filled with hope as she makes her way to the game. Good luck is often hard to come by at a place like Wrigley Field, but it’s on this day that she meets Nick, the new kid from her school, who seems to love the Cubs nearly as much as she does. But Nick carries with him a secret that makes Ryan wonder if anyone can ever really escape their past, or believe in the promise of those reassuring words: “Wait till next year.” Is it too much for Ryan to hope that this year, this season, might be her comeback season?
Who better than a Cubs fan understands loss? Ryan Walsh fell for Chicago's lovable losers at the side of her beloved father, who died when she was 10. Now 15, Ryan skips school on Opening Day 2008, the five-year anniversary of her father's death, and the beginning of a baseball season that marks an entire century since the Cubs' last World Series championship. Trying to buy a ticket from a scalper, she runs into Nick, a new boy at school, and their shared Cubmania unites them in friendship, then romance. Ryan is overinvested in the relationship: she's on the outs with her former best friends, and somewhat estranged from her newly pregnant mother (who sold her late husband's season tickets to pay bills, and has married a golfer who hates baseball). So it comes as a particularly cruel blow when Nick turns out to be terminally ill. A frequent objection from non-baseball fans is the languid pace of the game. The same complaint could be levied against this introspective first novel, which makes use of baseball's many opportunities for metaphor but not of its potential for excitement. Smith is a smooth writer, and she has something wise to say about how people process loss, but this four-hanky affair may be too much even for those as accustomed to heartbreak as Cubs fans. Ages 13-up.