- New Kid by Tim Green
Tommy Rust is just about to make a critical play when his father tears up to the baseball field in their car, packs Tommy in, and drives off to a new town. This isn’t the first time such a departure has occurred, and Tommy knows the drill: assume a new name—this time he chooses Brock Nickerson—and lay low in their new digs. Cruising below the radar isn’t easy this time around, since Brock is befriended by bad boy Nagel, is wooed onto a travel team by his middle school’s alcoholic coach, catches the eye of coach’s niece, and finally works up the courage to confront and even defy his commanding father. Make no mistake, though, this is still solidly within Green’s familiar sports territory, and Brock grows into a promising pitcher even as he struggles to get his father to explain their bizarre situation. Witness in protection? Good guy secret agent? Bad guy thug? Readers are as confounded as Brock about his father’s situation and his real status, and it is this ambiguity that elevates the title from the mundane to the engrossing. A bittersweet ending that diverges from the pattern of middle-grade sports plots will shake series fiction readers out of their comfort zone and ready them for the challenging work of YA sports writers awaiting them down the line.