Nash, Joyce. Tagged Out.
February 12th 2016 by Lorimer
Copy received from the publisher
Nominated for the Cybils award by the publisher
Nash "Gnash" Calvecchio's inner-city Toronto baseball team isn't doing very well. The players just can't seem to get along well enough to use their skills to win. When new kid, Jock, arrives from New Jersey, they have some hope that he will be able to help, but the fact that he is openly gay causes tension on the team and with other kids as well. One of the most important games of the season is against the well-to-do Parkhill Pirates, but when Gnash and Jock come to blows in the dugout, the team has to forfeit. The two come to an understanding, and Gnash defends Jock against idiots who give him a hard time, even though Jock is quite capable of defending himself.
Strengths: I appreciated that this was not a "coming out" story. Jock was already out, and he seemed to have a good balance of being comfortable with his identity while still being annoyed at people who are narrow minded about it. There is a great interchange between him and Gnash. Gnash asks him what it's like to be gay, and Jock asks him what it's like to not be gay. When Gnash replies that he's never really thought about it, he's just always liked girls, Jock replies that it's the same way for him, and compares it to liking onions or not. I also appreciated that this is completely middle grade appropriate-- no excessive alcohol usage or overly descriptive physical encounters. In fact, neither Jock and Gnash are dating anyone.
Weaknesses:Could have used a little more baseball.
What I really think: This was mediocre for a baseball book, but fantastic for its portrayal of a gay character.
After I read this, I was pretty "meh" about it, since it is fairly light on the baseball. Then, I was talking to a couple of my library helpers about the new Rick Riordan book, and one girl chimed in "I was disappointed when that one character turned out to be, you know, gay." When I asked why, she replied "Well, it wasn't supposed to be that kind of book." Since I know her mother is an English teacher at the high school, I was surprised. We talked about the fact that it was still full of action and adventure, and there wasn't really much about the character being gay, but she was still clearly not happy with the inclusion.
Since my daughters have been completely unfazed by classmates who date people of both gender, classmates who have been born male but identify as female, and a roommate who was first gay and later transitioned from female to male, I was honestly surprised at this student. We ended on a positive note, with the student agreeing that she would be upset if there were no books with characters like her in them, so she could see why there needed to be lots of different kids of characters in book, but it made me realize how important it is to have diverse characters even if they make some readers uncomfortable.