“I just feel like every kid is growing up too fast and they’re seeing too much… Because they have to have some innocence; there’s just no innocence left.” – Ellen DeGeneres
Jackson Kern walks into his new school one day, and Taylor Andrews is immediately smitten. Becca volunteers to show Jackson around. She is always dating the hot athlete of the moment, so Jax looks good on her resume… I mean arm! I hated her from the start. The stereotypical cheerleader type of being a brainless bimbo is a stereotype for a reason. It works. Taylor tells his best friend Benny about Jackson, and proceeds to talk about all Jackson, all the time. Benny tries to talk Taylor into actually talking to the Jackson, but Becca has connived to make Taylor believe that Jackson is a homophobe and hates him. Taylor continues to worship from afar, attending daily baseball practices and games. He doesn’t even like baseball! He can’t stay away because it is his one chance to watch Jackson without being seen doing it.
**Please be forewarned there are plot points revealed after the cut that may be considered spoilers**
At the same time, Taylor is still coming to terms with the fact that he is gay, and his best friend Benny, is very supportive. Benny is the popular, well-liked kid of the school. No one will mess with Taylor as long as Benny is around.
Taylor meets Kevin at a school dance. He sees it as an opportunity to date another boy for the first time and explore his budding sexuality a bit. Kevin sees Taylor more as a sexual conquest. The entirety of Pitch is kept to a PG rating, so no real details of anything graphic are on-page, but if what happened to Taylor happened to my child, there would have been police involvement! Taylor was physically assaulted when he didn’t desire to have sex with Kevin. It scares me that a young teen or even a tween will read Pitch and think that it’s ok to be hit by your date and not report it.
Meanwhile, Taylor and Benny are asked to go to be counselors at a summer camp that one of their teachers’ adopted son attends. The boy, Addy is an abuse survivor but hasn’t opened up to his adoptive parents about the extent or nature of the abuse. Slowly, there is a bond formed between the three boys and a deep, trusting friendship is born that extends beyond the boundaries of camp.
When Taylor and Jackson do finally have the opportunity to talk face-to-face, it becomes clear that Becca has been scheming to keep them apart. She has lied to each of them about what the other has said. They are finally able to explore their mutual attraction but Kevin shows up again to cause all sorts of drama. Kevin does get a beat down in return for assaulting Taylor. As adults we understand that this is fiction. Again, I worry about a teen or tween reading this book and accepting vigilante justice as the norm. Even though Kevin is eventually brought to real justice, initially it could be seen as the new boyfriend assaulting the old one for the previous assault. It is a vicious and violent circle.
I like Will Parkinson’s writing style. It is easy to read and flows smoothly. This is a perfect style for the YA audience. Pitch was an enjoyable emotional ride. I admire the strength the characters showed in coming through all that was thrown at them. I look forward to more from Will. I can’t wait to see him grow as an author and write me a Bennie & Addy book!
Now the negative. Parts of this book made me want to give it a one-star rating. I love Will Parkinson, the person. I am happy that he is writing. He has a gift and I am honored that he shares it with me. I do believe that parts of this book should have been handled differently. After Kevin and Taylor’s first “date”, the police should have been called. Taylor should also have gone immediately to the hospital.
A YA book will, even if not intended to do so, affect how a young reader may handle similar situations if they arise in their own lives. Young readers are not mature enough to read about an event and think through the fact that it is fiction and literary license is being taken to set up a future plot point. A vulnerable young reader might take the path that Taylor took and keep the events to himself, thereby setting up a very dangerous chain of destruction for those close to him.
When an author puts the YA label on a book, there is an inherent risk in releasing the book that it will serve as a guide instead of fiction for a young reader. I realize that no fiction writer sets out to be a role-model or to guide the behavior of a certain group of readers. But kids are impressionable. If a book is written for them about kids like them, they may just absorb those behaviors as their own. Inadvertently or not, bad choices on the part of the readers can be the result.
Negatives aside, as an ADULT, I enjoyed this book. I have hope for a bright future filled with many more good books from Will Parkinson, and I recommend Pitch to adult readers or to YA readers with parental supervision and a potential dubious content warning.
Reviewed by: Tina