Playing the Field
by Phil Bildner
YA fiction. 181 pp.
Simon & Schuster. 2006.
From the flap copy:
All Darcy wants is to play on the baseball team, to hear her name announced, "Now batting, Darcy Miller," to play the field. Is that so much to ask? Unfortunately, it might be. In a few short months, Darcy Miller goes from typical senior in high school to candidate for Jerry Springer. Her mom has started dating Darcy's principal, the very principal whose son Darcy happened to have started a huge flirt-fest with, now brought to a screeching halt. When she decides to let her mom go to bat (so to speak) for her to play on the baseball team, Darcy thinks things are starting to look up. After all, Principal Basset caves and decides to let her play. But he has two conditions that shake up her entire game: She must pretend to be a lesbian (WHAT?) and she must join the GSA, the Gay-Straight Alliance (WHAT? WHAT?), the president of which happens to be her best friend--make that her ex-best friend, Josh. Okay, Darcy's senior year might seem complicated at first. It's not. It's insurmountably, unforgettably, and--most of the time--hilariously complicated.
This is a quick read. Seriously. I think I knocked it out in a couple of hours. This is, I think, due to a very good narrative voice. Pacing is good.
However, there is a lot to be desired with this book. I really like the premise, which is why I picked up the book in the first place. But I think it's fairly obvious that this is the author's first novel. He generally skips over all the tension that should actually develop the plot. So this then is not a gay book, nor is it a sport book. (Though the character rambles on and on and on about how to play baseball ala an instruction manual.) And the penultimate scene in the novel is essentially a Lesson on the Importance of GSAs. (Which I'm not going to refute either.)
I just walked away at the end of the book rather frustrated that what could have been a great plot with lots of tension and drama and resolution and what not was ultimately not realized. The characters in the book are great and bound to create sparks when placed together, but the author doesn't let them do that.
So I have to give this book a big Eh. I will, however, read the author's next novel because I do like his writing style. I'm just hoping that next time he'll allow for tension in the plot.