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Golden Arm by Carl Deuker
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt / HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Talented pitcher Lazarus’s life feels like it’s falling apart: his high school’s baseball team is disbanded, the trailer park where his family lives is about to be demolished, and his brother Antonio has gotten involved with the neighborhood drug dealer. Given the opportunity to play baseball at Laurelhurst, a private school across town and a world away from Laz’s troubled neighborhood, Laz moves in with a teammate’s wealthy family. Laz quickly becomes a regional star with a real chance at the major league draft, but his brother’s choices threaten his chances of success.
Deuker’s latest is a fast, clearly-written read with very short chapters that will definitely appeal to baseball fans, but strong, universal themes of brotherhood and economic inequality extend the appeal to a variety of reluctant readers. The stakes are consistently high and the plot is fast-moving, with drama that includes the planned demolition of his family’s trailer-park home, his brother’s involvement with neighborhood drug dealers, Laz’s complicated transition to living in a wealthy family’s basement and attending a more elite school, and a WIAA investigation. As underdog Laz’s world falls apart around him, his athletic dreams seem more and more in reach, creating believable tension between what he values about his past and what he wants for his future.
Teens who enjoy the fast-paced sports fiction of John Feinstein, Geoff Herbach, or Mike Lupica will gravitate to this compelling, family-centered baseball story.