Soar by Joan Bauer

Soar is a sports fiction book that feels more like a realistic fiction similar to All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. It’s a moralistic tale about remaining positive, having good sportsmanship, and coaching people positively. Jeremiah moves with his adoptive father Walt to a big baseball town in Ohio while he is on contract fixing a companies robotics. Jeremiah loves baseball but he can’t play because he has had a heart transplant. His goal is to coach the middle school baseball team.

However, something strange is going on with baseball in town. Whenever Jeremiah asks about the middle school baseball team, people dodge him and say things like kind of or I don’t know. What does that even mean?! There’s either a team or there isn’t. Some kids practice after school, but a lot of parents are discouraging their kids from even playing. There is a giant monument to baseball at the top of Hillcrest, Ohio, but talking about baseball is making everyone nervous.

This is where Jeremiah steps in and tries to restore the town’s faith in baseball and each other. It’s not an easy road. Jeremiah can’t over-exert himself. Some of the kids are reluctant to play or are getting pressure from their parents to quit. Some are not good at baseball yet or don’t believe in themselves.

And then there’s Franny, Jeremiah’s next door neighbor, and troubled baseball enthusiast. She wants to play and she doesn’t. Something’s going on with her too, but she won’t tell Jeremiah. Can he solve all of the town’s trauma around baseball to make his favorite sport great again?

Even kids who don’t like sports will enjoy this novel. It’s heavy on character development and then there’s fast action baseball play by plays that will carry reluctant readers and hard-core baseball fans through. I love the focus on social-emotional development, loyalty, friendship, perseverance, believing in yourself, good sportsmanship, positivity, and teamwork. This book has nothing but positive vibes during a very hard time in a town’s life. And it’s not too cheesy. Yes, the town heals, yes grown-ups play a large supportive role. But, as they should. Kids still make bad decisions, have road blocks in their personal recoveries and have friendship trouble, but it’s overall a feel good, wholesome book without being boring or preachy.