An Accidental Fastball to the Heart by G.S. Berger
Title: An Accidental Fastball to the Heart
Author: G.S. Berger
Publisher: The Usual Suspects Publishing Co. Ltd., October 2012
Rating: C List
Blurb: Rebecca always hurts the ones she loves. Except, okay, she didn’t even like Emily and she only broke the other girl’s nose twice, but, still. Eager—nay, desperate—to make amends for these accidental injuries, she reluctantly agreed to drive her victim on a road trip over an extended weekend, shortly before they both graduate from high school. All she wanted was forgiveness, an easing of her troubled conscience. Never could she have guessed that her tall, quiet classmate was into women – or that she’s exactly Emily’s type…
An Accidental Fastball to the Heart is a 200-page or 60,000-word novel about life, love, and acceptance.
Review: This is a sweet coming-of-age story about Rebecca – better known as Beaner for having beaned her classmate Emily in the face with a fastball during a softball game in gym class – who basically wanted to get through high school with decent grades, as little angst as possible, and find her place in the world. The one thing standing in her way was the guilt she felt for having broken Emily’s nose by said errant pitch. She saw the perfect opportunity to apologize a year later when, again in gym class, they were learning how to dance. The moment the taller girl was in her arms, Beaner was tongue tied, stumbling over an apology she desperately needed to give, but had no idea how to deliver. Unfortunately, her stumbling words turned into stumbling feet, and she tripped, and Emily, poor girl, wound up getting a broken nose courtesy of Beaner yet again.
Mortified, Beaner promised Emily one favor, anything the girl asked, as penance for her actions, however accidental. The favor, a ten hour ride to Emily’s sister’s house, guaranteed awkward conversation, painful silence, and just the sort of punishment Beaner felt she deserved.
The hours’ long journey in close proximity forced Beaner to come clean about her guilt – that her breaking Emily’s nose was the reason the girl had shucked her trendy style in favor of punk clothes and a wild haircut. The more the two girls opened up, the more they realized they had a lot in common. They shared a desire to be true to themselves even in the face of ridicule from their peers, a genuine dislike of labels, and just one more thing… same-sex attraction. To each other.
What I liked about this book was the ring of truth of how high school girls deal with their environments. Emily’s overbearing parents had her taking the easy road for a long time, conforming to their ideals about dress and ladylike behavior when she was really more comfortable in cargo pants with short-cropped hair, or even dressed in drag. She didn’t mind being mistaken for a guy, and as her military Halloween costume illustrated one year, she made a very handsome guy at that. The two day hospitalization due to a concussion she suffered thanks to the pitch Beaner delivered made Emily realize her conforming was less the easy thing to do to avoid fighting with her parents and more restrictive to the person she was growing up to be.
Beaner had experimented briefly with her best friend Wendy for a few months and knew that being sexually adventurous with girls wasn’t a problem for her… but there wasn’t much spark of interest in either boys or girls. Until Emily. Something about the tall, somewhat androgynous Emily woke Beaner to the realization that it was the person she found compelling, and gender didn’t matter.
This is an entertaining read, but I will say that, typical of the age of the main characters, there was a high degree of angst over not very much, and while the writing was good, and I felt like I got to know both characters well, it wasn’t a high intensity plot. For the amount of angst, it wasn’t a big boohoo fest, which I appreciated. However, between Beaner coming out to her mother, deciding for a variety of reasons to postpone college, and the betrayal of her best friend, I felt like Beaner got off really easy for the big decisions she made. I would have liked to have seen a scene or two where Emily’s parents were introduced. Beaner’s mother, while very cool and supportive, was almost too trusting of Beaner’s choices and maturity. I knew very few kids in high school with parents who did as little future-steering as Beaner’s mother. Perhaps in displaying Emily’s overbearing parents, the author would have painted a more accurate, if dramatic, picture of the typical struggles of a high school student, and especially one with Emily’s tendencies to rebel.
I am pleased to see a book that handles not only F/F relationships but trans* tendencies as well. The graphic parts were not graphic at all (the author drew the curtain on all love scenes, which, given their age, is a wise choice), and while it’s certainly enjoyable for adults, dare I say this would make a fantastic YA story. Overall, a solid read with good writing (a few editing quibbles such as missing words), a fantastic cover, and believable characters with spot-on teenage girl thoughts, feelings, and language. Perhaps the plot could have used some more zing, but I was not disappointed to have spent the time reading this book.