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)
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Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn't fall apart the way he feared.
But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden's father, a well-known Christian radio host has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son's hands; Braden is the key witness in his father's upcoming trial.
Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four mile per hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden's saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.
Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.
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* "A poignant look at the messiness of love, faith, and humanity."—School Library Journal
*"Gilbert respectfully and sensitively handles themes of faith, religion, and family [a] moving debut."—Booklist
*"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."—Kirkus Reviews
Gr 8 Up—Braden's dad is in jail, awaiting trial for allegedly killing a police officer, supposedly backing up, swerving, and running the officer down during a routine traffic stop. Braden dreads having to testify. His father is a well-known religious radio host, and Braden's own faith is wavering as he wrestles with the realities of the relationship he has with his father. He wants to believe that his father is a good man, but the facts in the case seem to point in another direction. Flickers of his dad's drinking, violence, and judgmental tendencies make Braden increasingly apprehensive about providing his version of the events of the night the officer was killed. He also has lingering doubts about why his older brother would leave home, not returning for more than a decade. When he arrives back to care for Braden during their dad's incarceration, Braden eventually learns the truth: his dad disapproved of the brother's secrets and beat him mercilessly. The story flashes forward and back in time, interweaving baseball vignettes as metaphors for strained relationships. 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. Readers who do push through will find a poignant look at the messiness of love, faith, and humanity. VERDICT A strong debut for readers who enjoyed E.M. Kokie's Personal Effects (Candlewick, 2012).—Leah Krippner, Harlem High School, Machesney Park, IL
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)
|Publisher:||Penguin Random House|