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Summary: Coming Up Short
In Coming Up Short, Bea is winning at being a shortstop, finally making headway with her crush, and is excited to go to summer camp with her friends when her dad’s legal license is suspended in a town scandal. Suddenly, she develops a case of the yips and begs her parents to send her to another softball summer camp on Gray Island, where her mom grew up. Throughout the summer, Bea learns more about her parents’ previous marriages and other secrets.
First off, this book has an intriguing premise: a father who’s mishandled funds and has his attorney license suspended. But beyond that, it dives into complex emotions like whether we can be the source of other humans’ happiness. Bea is fantastic shortstop who suddenly loses the ability to play well because she’s in her head all the time. We see how this impacts her self-esteem and her friendships throughout the story.
Another interesting angle is Bea’s parents’ histories (something many middle grade books don’t get into). We learn a lot about her parents’ past marriages and how their histories affect their present — and also Bea’s desire to be their source of joy. Bea gets to spend time on a picturesque island learning to improve her softball skills and living with an aunt who deals with autoimmune joint issues.
At its core, this reads a lot like a slice-of-life, character-driven story with a couple of propulsive plot points and more revelations from the past than present changes. I liked Bea’s time on the island and her crush on Xander (even though it gets complicated by the fact that Xander’s dad broke the news of Bea’s father scandal).
Overall: Coming Up Short
Coming Up Short is a sporty, summery, and serious coming of age story about a girl dealing with difficult emotions and circumstances. Bea learns that while she wants to be her parents source of joy in these hard times, she’s not responsible for anyone’s happiness, but hers. There’s plenty of softball action and the Gray Island setting is such a pleasure to revisit (we first experienced it in Morrison’s Up for Air). If you like stories about girls growing up, dealing with tough internal issues while playing and winning at sports, you should be reading more Laurie Morrison books.