Strike Zone

Philomel. Sept. 2019. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780525514886.
Gr 4-7–Nick Garcia hopes to be as good a pitcher as his idol, New York Yankees ace Michael Arroyo (whom readers may recognize from Mike Lupica’s Heat), but first he has to get his team to the Dream League tournament. If they win, he gets to throw the first pitch at a Yankees game. However, Nick has much more on his mind than baseball; his sister has lupus and his family lives in constant fear of ICE discovering his parents’ undocumented status. In this timely tale, Lupica has written a story that is extremely relevant to today’s political climate, highlighting how immigrants feel under today’s administration and the reality of ICE raids. As always, Lupica’s action sequences are thrilling and fast-paced. He has gotten the voices and calls of radio announcers John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman down pat—readers will feel like they’re listening to the game on their local WFAN affiliate. Short chapters encourage quick reading for reluctant readers while swiftly moving the plot along; readers will most likely realize how the baseball plot will play out, so the real anticipation comes from waiting for ICE to show up for Nick’s father. When they finally do, it packs a serious emotional punch to the gut of the reader. Fair warning—Lupica takes a hard political stance against the current administration without naming names.
VERDICT Baseball acts as the backdrop to tell the story of life as an immigrant in modern-day America. Solid purchase where Mike Lupica and the Yankees are popular.

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