Game Seven

256p. ebook available. Viking. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780670785186.
Gr 6–9—Julio Ramirez, Jr., son of a former Cuban national baseball hero known as El Fuego, is an outstanding player in his own right. He dreams of making the Cuban national junior team, but is viewed with suspicion because of his father's defection to the United States several years before. Julio's feelings toward his father are conflicted: he is proud of the older man's success in the American major leagues, but feels abandoned, as he, his sister, and his mother remain in poverty in Cuba while El Fuego enjoys the benefits of his multimillion dollar contract with the Florida Marlins. Unbeknownst to Julio, his father has made arrangements for him, his uncle, and his cousin to escape the island with the help of a guide named Gabriel. By means of a retrofitted '59 Buick, the four make the harrowing journey from Cuba to Miami, even as El Fuego is playing a starring role in the World Series. Arriving in the U.S., the group is put up in a luxury apartment, but much to Julio's disappointment, his father does not make an appearance. In a turn of events that stretches credulity, Julio is spirited into the Marlins's clubhouse by an ESPN reporter just before the beginning of the final game of the Series. He and his father discuss family issues as the game progresses. While their reunion is moving and appropriately equivocal, sports-savvy youngsters may find the prospect of a teenager chatting up his dad in the bullpen during game seven of the World Series a little difficult to swallow.
VERDICT With its short chapters and simple vocabulary, the novel moves along briskly and would be a good fit for reluctant readers with a taste for baseball and adventure.

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