Two Strikes, by Johnny Boateng (2017)

Two Strikes by Johnny BoatengThis realistic contemporary story tackles the related themes of racism, sexism and bullying as KalLeah (Kal), a Grade 8 girl of mixed race, struggles to fit in when her RCMP father is transferred from multicultural Halifax to the small town of Trail in British Columbia’s gorgeous Kootenays. Writer Boateng draws on his own experience in this high interest, low reading level (hi-lo) sports novel. Kal is a top-notch ballplayer and scorns the girls’ softball team in favour of the all-boys – at least for now – Trail All-Stars baseball team. Her attempts to prove herself result only in alienating the popular Valley Girls on the girls’ team, leading to cruel insults and cyberbullying. Kal finds friends who support her and help her determine a path to realise her goals in a community that is known for celebrating its champions of every kind. Typical of novels for teens and tweens, the adults in the book are largely unhelpful; some parents are overtly hostile to the idea of a girl playing with the boys. I enjoyed Boateng’s writing; it’s fast-paced with realistic interactions between the teens, though Brody and Rocco are a bit over the top. As one who changed schools frequently in my youth, I found Kal’s inner dialogue authentic, revealing a combination of longing for people and places now gone, and a gritty determination to make things work. Her surprise at bully Nikki’s almost instant dislike was, to my mind, a bit disingenuous. References to current social media like SnapChat give this a very contemporary feel but could quickly date the book in future. The themes of discrimination, race and gender are handled with an appropriate hand for the topic and young readers will enjoy seeing how Kal finds acceptance in her new community.
Few reviews so far, but keep an eye out for more discussion of this book at


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