Review: The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith

Publication Date: March 4th, 2008
Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
SUMMARY
The last place Ryan Walsh should be this afternoon is on a train heading to Wrigley Field. She should be in class, enduring yet another miserable day of her first year of high school. But for once, Ryan isn’t thinking about what she should be doing. She’s not worried about her lack of friends, or her suffering math grade, or how it’s been five whole years since the last time she was really and truly happy. Because she’s finally returning to the place that her father loved, where the two of them spent so many afternoons cheering on their team. And on this — the fifth anniversary of his death — it feels like there’s nowhere else in the world she should be.
Ryan is once again filled with hope as she makes her way to the game. Good luck is often hard to come by at a place like Wrigley Field, but it’s on this day that she meets Nick, the new kid from her school, who seems to love the Cubs nearly as much as she does. But Nick carries with him a secret that makes Ryan wonder if anyone can ever really escape their past, or believe in the promise of those reassuring words: “Wait till next year.” Is it too much for Ryan to hope that this year, this season, might be her comeback season?

I always have a difficult time reviewing books about grief – this book in particular, is even harder. I can’t quite reconcile my feelings toward the main character. On the one hand, I truly feel for her. Ryan’s inability to move forward five years after her father’s death deserves all my sympathy. On the other, and forgive me if I may sound a bit callous, but to be inside Ryan’s head was painful in a way that didn’t have anything to do with her grief. We see her struggle day in and day out with the memories of her dad, the life lessons he’d imparted through baseball euphemisms, and everybody else’s capability to move on, leaving her seemingly stagnant in her own depressed state. I wanted to take her by the shoulders and tell her to snap out of it. I wanted her to see that whatever she was doing was the exact opposite of how her father would want her to do. I get it, truly I do. You cannot possibly know what a person is going through unless you’ve actually been there. But that doesn’t mean that she had my full empathy.

This book is really about life’s inevitable disappointments – and what better way to immortalize life’s heartaches than the Cubs’ merry-go-round of curses and heartbreaks? I’m a bit of a sports nut myself, so I understand the emotions we go through with every wins and every losses. I just have never actually applied it in reality. The author either did her homework well, or she wrote from experience. This book is rich in sports history and psychology euphemisms – some a bit more clichéd than others. But the beauty of it all is that the author, in one way or another, gave it a fresh new take that it didn’t induce some justified eye rolls.

I also loved that even though Ryan was always on the outside looking in, she couldn’t care less either way. She didn’t spend her time grumbling about her isolation in school and at home, she just accepted it the way it is. It was her choice, after all. And really, this is where I’m feeling the most conflicted about our character. I have this certain admiration for her but at the same time, it wasn’t easy to ignore her defeatist attitude.

A lot of people have cried over this book; it was an emotional read after all. I would too had I known Nick’s eventual fate. And I don’t know, it was just not as draining a read as I thought it would be. I also wish that the author didn’t leave the ending in such a manner. It was vague that I didn’t get any resolution. But you need to read this book and take it for what it is.