T. L. Hoch
Who wouldn’t want to be considered the star high school athlete? To be admired by everyone is a high school student’s dream, but is there a down side? Have you ever known coaches who believe that winning is everything and the only thing? Is there more to a sport than winning?
Annie Smith has not had an easy life. Her father died in an airplane accident just as she was becoming a teenager. She quickly discovered her fascination for basketball and softball. This interest developed her skills as an outstanding athlete who strongly values her team rather than being a star. Throughout her short competitive experience, she strongly worked with her team in developing their strengths and the value of teamwork. This success caused the media in her small community in Arkansas to become obsessed with her life. Now Annie and her mother have an opportunity for change by moving to Texas.
Annie dreams of being “normal” rather than a superstar and begins her new life by calling herself B.A. B.A. joins the basketball team but is not enjoying playing guard on this team. She chooses to stay quiet with an inexperienced coach who believes that your tallest players should always be the forwards. With considerable attitude, the taller players are threatened by this newer, shorter girl who only wants to play the game and to do her best for her team and herself. Between the coach and the players being threatened and challenged, how does the new kid make friends?
Through her one new friend, Chip, B.A. begins to learn about friendship and trust. CHASING NORMAL excels with lessons of sportsmanship and the personal responsibility of doing the right thing in helping others. The teenager issues of friendship in a relationship with a boyfriend who is a friend, is refreshing.
CHASING NORMAL is definitely a change in the traditional young adult novel. There are no inappropriate violent or sexual scenes or language. This is unusual in any book and even the main characters do not approve of using bad language or having inappropriate relationships. The choices the characters make in the book are ethical and moral and excellent examples of role models.
The story is well-written and logically organized with a developed plot and climax that is perfect for young adults to view as a story map with all the elements of literature woven into an refreshing story.
A few minor elements cause concern such as the minimal mention of B.A.’s mother and their time together. After everything that both of them had been through and moving to a new town, the mother seems too distant. Also, there is no mention of her grades except that she does not excel in math. When does she complete her homework? With her love of playing the bass guitar, she seldom plays or practices. Sometimes it seems that B.A. is too good to be true, even in fiction with her poise and maturity that definitely outshines most adults.
T. L. Hoch is a retired high school social science teacher and golf coach in northwest Illinois.
I look forward to the next book in this series and also a possible spin-off following the mother in raising such a classy daughter as B. A. Smith.