Saturday, 30 October 2010

Review: Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs - Ron Koertge

Published: March 9th 2010, Candlewick Press

Pages: 170 pages, hardback

Acquired: Sent for review by Candlewick Press

Summary (from Goodreads): Fourteen-year-old Kevin Boland has a passion for playing baseball, a knack for writing poetry — and a cute girlfriend named Mira who’s not much interested in either. But then, Kevin doesn’t exactly share Mira’s newfound fervor for all things green. So when Kevin signs up for open mike night at Bungalow Books and meets Amy, a girl who knows a sonnet from a sestina and can match his emails verse for verse, things start to get sticky.

Should he stay with Mira? Or risk spoiling his friendship with Amy by asking her out? Ron Koertge, master of snappy dialogue and a deft poet, offers a fast-paced, sympathetic story that interweaves two narrative voices with humor and warmth.

My review: Now I think verse novels are a bit like Marmite – I personally adore them but I know other readers who aren’t fans. I started with Ellen Hopkins, then Sonya Sones and now Ron Koertge. I’ve loved each verse novel I’ve read and Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs certainly made the grade.

It’s a brilliantly crafted story, slow burning without being boring and the poetry itself is genius. We see a whole host of different poetry styles here and Koertge gives us a bit of a masterclass in verse – he writes each style perfectly. This is clearly a writer who knows his craft inside out.

Kevin is a likeable guy (and it was nice to read a YA novel narrated by a male character) and his poetry gives us a great but subtle insight into his character. Mira is slightly questionable but she’s meant to be and it works well. One moment I felt for her, the next morning I was rolling my eyes at her idiotic comments. Amy was a great addition; a little quirky but still relatable – I liked her. I was rooting for her and Kevin to get together for the whole story but Koertge gives nothing away until the final moments of the novel.

If you haven’t yet tried a verse novel I’d suggest Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs as a great starting point. The poetry isn’t too complex and the story is strong. Though, I should mention this is actually a sequel but I think it works brilliantly as a standalone novel.

First line: 'I come in tired
from baseball practice, and Dad catches me
guzzling OJ right out of the carton.'

Plot: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Cover: 3/5
Total: 14/20 (C)

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