High school junior Marlee McAllister lives and breathes softball. She’s the pitcher for the Clarkson Cougars in the North Country of upstate New York. With the season opener approaching, Marlee and her best friend, Jeri D’Amico, go scout their rivals, the East Valley Panthers. The Panthers star pitcher, Christy Loveland, took the All County pitching title the preceding year. It’s a title that Marlee covets. Marlee and Jeri settle in for the game but as the Panthers take the field, Marlee finds herself staring at Susie Torres, the Panther left fielder.
And so starts the beginning of the biggest change in Marlee’s life. When Marlee realises that the feelings she’s experiencing for Susie are nothing like what it feels like to be with Bobby – her boyfriend – she begins to question why they’re even together. All he wants to do is make out and go parking, and that’s the last thing Marlee wants to do with Bobby. When Bobby leaves her for someone else, Marlee is shocked but also a little relieved.
Enter Susie. At a party one night, Susie tells Marlee that she thinks she beautiful. As soon as the words fall on Marlee’s ears, she feels completely unable to hold her feelings in any longer. The girls end up making out and so starts the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
Unsure of how their friends will react, the two girls decide to keep their newfound love a secret. And it’s a good thing they do, because Susie’s best friend (and Marlee’s rival pitcher), Christy Loveland, wants Susie all to herself. Not in the same way that Marlee and Susie want each other, but her jealously becomes a major problem for the new couple all the same. Will the new couple survive the pressure so early on in their relationship?
What I loved about this book the most was Marlee’s immediate, unquestioned acceptance of her newfound sexuality. She didn’t go into denial, and she didn’t embark on a downward spiral of self-hate and loathing. When their friends found out that Susie and Marlee were dating, there were no homophobic reactions and certainly no friendships lost over the issue. This is the first book I’ve found for gay teens that doesn’t include the protagonist’s ‘coming out’ being met with a barrage of objections and hate. Although the two girls did express concern about how their loves ones would react, it wasn’t a huge issue and it was clear that they certainly weren’t going to let that stop them being together. It was so refreshing (and joyous!) to read a novel for gay teens that shows the protagonist in positive circumstances, rather than the tragic ones that so often get published.
Out of Left Field is a short, punchy feel-good read that gets straight to the point (no pun intended).
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