Friday, February 11, 2011
Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best, by Maria Padian
Padian, Maria. Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best. 352 p. Knopf Books for Young Readers. 2011. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9780375865794.
I'm sorry to say that I almost passed up this book on first glance. Can you believe it? I didn’t get the title, and I didn’t like the fact that one of the female main characters has a boy’s name.
I’m so glad I decided to give it a try, because Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
It’s a story about friendship, goals, and deciding what’s really important. Henry (short for Henriette), a rising star in the tennis world, and Eva, a talented young ballet dancer, have been best friends since the age of 6. Now at age 15, the two girls couldn’t be more different, but they share the experience of living under an intense amount of pressure to succeed. Through alternating chapters of dual narration with distinct voices, the girls recount the events of a summer of growth, change, and self-discovery as they apply themselves to their athletic and artistic pursuits, with nearly tragic consequences for one.
I really liked both the bold, headstrong Henry, and the more vulnerable perfectionist Eva. I liked that their personalities are effective contrasts to one another, yet the strength and depth of their friendship is completely believable, with inside jokes and true devotion. Too, I liked the way the author portrays the demanding worlds of competitive sports and ballet. In particular, any reader who thinks ballerinas just twirl around in tutus will come away from this book with a new respect for what dancers go through to achieve their art.
I have to admit, the title of this book still doesn’t grab me. It’s a catch phrase the two protagonists use to express their affection for each other and show pride in their home state, but I'm from California! I don't get it! Plus, I don't like tomatoes. But that's my own issue.
The main thing is: it’s not always easy to find a sports novel that will appeal to girls, and this is a good one. I was thrilled to buy this one for my library, and look forward to recommending it. Whether the reader is looking for a sports book, or a book about real girls and solid friendship, this book fits the bill.
Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best will be released on March 8, 2011. ARC for review provided by the publisher.