I recently read a book called Rivals. This book is about a 12 year old boy, named Josh, who plays baseball on a traveling tournament team. Josh is very big and very talented for his age and he used to play on teams with kids older then him. The team has a goal to win the Hall of Fame Tournament in Cooperstown, which is sometimes considered a bigger torunament then the Little League World Series. He has two close friends, a teammate named Benji, who never seems to take anything too serious, and a personal friend who Josh grew up with named Jaden, a reporter for a local paper. You get the impression that Josh likes Jaden as more then just a friend. It creates some good tension throughout the story. Another character in this story is Josh's dad, who played thirteen years in a minor league baseball system. He manages Josh's team and he is struggling to make enough money to support their family. He pushes Josh to be the best he can be, no matter what it takes. If the team wins the tournament, they will get a contract with Nike which will provide a lot of money. His big message to Josh is that Josh needed to find a rival, and when he does, he could become really great. Josh's mom is more concerned with not putting too much pressure on Josh and allowing him to grow up a s normal kid. She is very worried about Josh getting hurt, but she supports him.
We meet an opponent in the beginning of the story who might be his rival. This kid, named Sandy Planczek, is a really good player. His team plays Josh's team and the winner gets the chance to play in Cooperstown. The other kid intentionally hits Josh in the face with a pitch and Josh fractures a bone by his eye. Josh finishes the game but is forced to go to the hospital, A big choice has to be made in the hospital. Josh can let his face heal and miss playing in Cooperstown or he can have surgery, which will leave a big scar, but he will be able to play baseball in Cooperstown. Against his mother's wishes, he has the surgery.
Josh's team advances to the Cooperstown Tournament. Jaden learns a boy named Mickey Mullen Jr., whose own dad played major league baseball and is also an actor, is on a team called the L.A.Comets. Mickey is a very wealthy boy with good looks and he becomes a good rival the to poor, scar faced Josh. The Comets end up playing on the other side of the bracket. Jaden, who is a reporter, becomes obsessed with Mickey which makes Benji and Josh upset. Josh actually becomes jealous which adds to the rivalry. Jaden starts hanging out with Mickey. She rides in Mickey's dad's helicopter and eats at fancy restaurants. But what bothers Josh the most is that she starts sitting in Mickey's teams dugout during their games and to make things worse, she kissed him! All this tension builds as both teams keep winning until they face each other in the championship. But while the Titans win by following the rules, Mickey's team wins by cheating. This goes against everything Josh was raised to believe in, which is work hard and give your all and if you play better then your opponent, then you can win the game. Josh catches Micky's team cheating by paying off an umpire so that they can keep winning. Jaden finally realizes that she got caught up in the moment with Mickey, and she teams up with Benji and Mickey to prove the Comets are cheating. The teams end up meeting in the championship in which the Titans win when Benji runs over the catcher to score the winning run. Josh realizes Mickey has become his rival, on and off the field.
This was one of the best books I have ever read and is really a book that sports lovers should read. It is a book where one team overcomes the odds and shocks everyone. But more importantly it is a story of friendship and overcoming your own fears. It had all the things you need to make a great book, with strong detail, great characters, fantastic plot, and enemies that have to be overcome.