Plunking Reggie Jackson

James W. Bennett, Author
James W. Bennett, Author Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing $16 (208p) ISBN 978-0-689-83137-9
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High-school senior Coley Burke seems to have everything going for him. His pitching skills have won him glory at school and attracted the attention of several baseball scouts; he lives in a beautiful house (with a full-size bronze statue of Reggie Jackson in a bull pen in the backyard), drives an expensive car and has a hot new girlfriend named Bree. However, as Bennett (Dakota Dreams; The Squared Circle) pointedly relates, appearances are deceiving. The untimely death four years ago of Coley's brother Patrick, a major league player, has left Coley with a desperate need to follow in his sibling's footsteps--including imitating Patrick's reckless behavior. Coley's eligibility to play ball is precarious at best due to his slipping grades, a severe ankle injury and the anxiety brought on by the news that Bree may be pregnant. Uneven pacing and a perhaps too generous spattering of clich d passages about Coley's exploding hormones (e.g., ""Each time she stretched high to take down a book, he couldn't help staring at her shapely white thighs"") mars the narrative, and Coley's attitude toward his brother, girls in general and the game of baseball remain elusive to the end. But readers may well be able to relate to the pressures plaguing Coley. As in Bennett's previous novels, the author provides a frank, insightful psychological study of a troubled teen. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)
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