Out of Left Field by Liza Ketchum

Out of Left Field
Out of Left Field by Liza Ketchum
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (118 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

The summer of 2004 is full of promise for Brandon McGinnis. He has a job, a spot on the varsity swim team, loving parents, and loyal friends. Brandon and his dad, ardent Red Sox fans, wonder: could this be the year the Sox finally win the World Series? Then Brandon’s father dies suddenly. His will, signed just before his death, reveals a secret kept for thirty years. As shadows of the Vietnam War bleed into the escalating War in Iraq, Brandon sets out to solve the mystery his father left behind. His journey takes him to Canada’s Cape Breton Island, where he uncovers bittersweet truths about the past, and a family facing their own hidden demons. Brandon’s courageous search throws him into life’s game with its devastating losses, unexpected curve balls, and thrills as wondrous as a home run on an autumn night.

Bury the past as deeply as you dare. There’s still no guarantee the truth will stay hidden.

Brandon is a very sympathetic protagonist. As if his father’s death wasn’t enough of a shock, the things he learns about his family after the funeral made me empathize with his reaction to all of the changes in his life. It was such a natural, realistic response to terribly upsetting news that I completely understood all of his conflicting emotions.

The pacing felt disjointed. The text was regularly broken up into sections that jumped between the past and the present. There were also quite a few transitions from one scene to the next just as Brandon was about to discover yet another clue about his potential half-brother. Drawing the audience’s attention to other things at critical moments in the plot made me suspect that this was written for people who are several years younger than the main character, although I was never quite sure if this was actually the author’s intention.

There’s something fascinating about old letters. The ones in this story genuinely felt like they were written decades ago. Everything from the slang terms in them to the kinds of assumptions they made about the people receiving them worked well for the time period in which they set. I would have liked to read a few more of them, although I completely understand why the author decided to use them as sparingly as he did.

Out of Left Field is a good choice for anyone who likes stories that are heavily influenced by the Vietnam era.

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