Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger, 353 pages
young adult; themed reading challenge: epistolary
I gave this to my 11 year old son for Christmas after reading a great review of it somewhere. I think it came into notice around the time The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie book began making waves as both are epistolary books - told through letters. A librarian was making a display of these types of books, sort of like the Amazon recommended list "If you like this, you may like that" and read Last Days of Summer and gave it a rave review.
My son enjoyed it, but was put off a bit by the 'bad' words, and told me the ending shocked him. So of course I had to read it. Joey, a 12 year old Jewish boy in 1940 Brooklyn begins writing to Giants third baseman Charlie Banks. They don't hit it off, but Charlie continues to write back, which just encourages Joey. Joey is friends with a Japanese American, and they are getting beat up and hoping Charlie can help them. Thus the language - Charlie is a 23 year old professional ball player and Joey is a tough guy without a father around so these guys are a little rough around the edges.
Joey and Charlie form an unusual friendship but it becomes very important for both of them, and they both grow. About the shocking ending? Just the difference between being 11 and 41. I have read a lot more books, especially ones set during wars, so I can predict better what might happen. The reviews I read at librarything called the ending 'predictable,' which it was, but it didn't detract from the book at all. And to me, that's why young adult books can be predictable and still very enjoyable. You have to be shocked for the first time in a lot of ways before endings become predictable. The characters here were very delightful, and the letter writing style between the different characters told the story in a very readable way. I was crying by the end because these characters touched each other, and me, so much.
The story is about so much more than baseball. The Japanese internment during World War Two is also a part of the story. But it was more a story of a young boy who had been abandoned by his father and looked for that guidance from someone and a young man who takes on responsibility for a young kid.