Play On – Michelle Smith – Lewis Creek #1 – Spencer Hill Contemporary – Published 21 April 2015
In the small town of Lewis Creek, baseball is everything.
Especially for all-star pitcher Austin Braxton, who has a one-way ticket out of town with his scholarship to a top university. All that stands between him and a new start is one final season. But when Austin starts flunking Chemistry, his picture-perfect future is in jeopardy. A failing grade means zero playing time, and zero playing time means no scholarship.
Enter Marisa Marlowe, the new girl in town who gets a job at his momma’s flower shop. Not only is Marisa some home-schooled super-genius, she’s also a baseball fanatic and more than willing to help Austin study. As the two grow closer, there’s something about Marisa that makes Austin want more than just baseball and out of Lewis Creek—he wants a future with her. But Marisa has a past that still haunts her, one that she ran all the way to South Carolina to escape.
As Austin starts to peel back the layers of Marisa’s pain, it forces him to look beyond the facade of himself and everyone he thought he knew in his town. What he sees instead is that in a small town like Lewis Creek, maybe baseball isn’t everything—maybe it is just the thing that ties them all together.
I absolutely love books that combine sweet romance with a story of determination, perseverance through hardship and the strength of family and friendship. Play On combines all this backed with the wonderful setting of small town, Southern USA and baseball.
Austin has just one season left. One season of playing high school baseball as the starting pitcher before heading off to college, one season left of school to keep his grades high enough to keep playing and one season left of soaking in the moments that come with spending time with his best friends before they all leave town and never look back.
Austin is a guy’s guy. Brilliant pitcher, town golden boy, likes a good party, helps his mother run a florist and a gentleman. He’s got some unresolved issues with his father’s death, is looking forward to leaving for college in a couple of months and eats, sleeps and trains baseball. So meeting the new girl is town, Marissa, is another element he wasn’t expecting. But Austin goes after what he wants, so he is determined to get to know Marissa, even if she only wants to be friends. And Austin is a great friend. This truly is a very sweet romance. I loved that it was told through Austin’s perspective. I loved how cheesy he becomes over Marissa and love that he gives himself a hard time about it.
And alongside all that sweet romance are some very serious issues. Mental health and self harm are both key themes in Play On. Books that address youth mental health are so important and I loved how it was thoughtfully discussed in this book.
Friendship, team spirit, mateship. Baseball and Austin’s baseball team are the backbone of this story, and they bring extra details to the story that make it so very easy to devour and enjoy. It also brings a few extra complications and depth.
Play On is a truly delightful story of love, growing up, being there for your friends, challenging people’s ideals and being true to yourself.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Baseball, romance, mental health, self harm, family, high schools, sport.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references. Coarse language, s***, f***, fag***, sl**, as*****. References to self harm and suicide.
Published: 21 April 2015 by Spencer Hill Contemporary.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 258 pages.