________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 26. . . .March 8, 2013


Hurricane Heat. (Orca Sports).

Steven Barwin.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
162 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0213-1 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-4598-0214-8 (pdf),
ISBN 978-1-4598-0215-5 (epub).

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Jonine Bergen.

** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Coach dropped the baseball in my glove. The batter kept his distance while I took a couple of warm-up pitches. Alone on the mound, I stared at the baseball until the umpire called, "Game on." The batter stepped into the box. It was crunch time. Ethan showed me one finger. It was the signal for a curveball. He then showed four fingers, which meant he wanted the pitch to break away from the batter.

I placed my middle finger along the bottom seam of the ball and my thumb on the back seam. I released the ball. It started high toward the outside of the strike zone and kept going. The pitch ran wide and dinged off the fence. I ran to cover home base as Ethan hustled to retrieve the ball. But the runner on third stayed put.


Sixteen-year-old Travis Barkley has been separated from his sister, Amanda, since their parents' death five years earlier. After the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, Amanda's family moved from Arizona to California. At that point, the siblings lost contact with each other. Now, Travis is sure that Amanda was the one who sent him a blank postcard of Hermosa Beach Pier, and he decides he needs to find her. So, when school ends, with the blessing of his foster parents, Travis moves to Hermosa for the summer to try to track her down.

      While searching for Amanda, Travis meets Ethan who encourages him to try out for his baseball team, the Hurricanes. Although Travis hasn't played baseball since the death of his parents, his natural talent and love for the game become evident to the coach. Soon the possibility of scouts recruiting him and the dream of scholarships begin to conflict with his original focus of finding his sister.

      Barwin is particularly good at depicting the sports scenes. His close attention to detail and use of first-person narrative allow the reader to experience the doubts and triumphs that are integral to any player's experience in a game situation. Barwin's understanding of the team dynamic, on and off the field, is also very believable. As in his previous books, such as Making Select, Barwin uses the sports medium to discuss a social issue. Unfortunately, the underlying plot does not have the same attention to detail in Hurricane Heat as Making Select.

      The story of a brother wanting to find his sister after a five year separation is both touching and believable. However, at times, the plot feels forced and contrived. As I was reading, I found myself questioning the premise on which the story was based. Why couldnít the siblings stay in touch via Facebook or some other social media, particularly when they are depicted as older children when the initial separation occurred? Why didn't Amanda, the sister, write anything on the original postcard? How is it that Travis' foster family couldnít help him find his sister? Why didnít Travis continue playing ball at some level in the intervening years?

      Travis is a likeable character who is trying to do the right thing. By depicting his insecurities and mistakes on and off the field, Barwin has further humanized his character. The baseball scenes have the small details that invite the reader to participate in the game. Further, Barwin uses his secondary characters to move the plot forward and to develop the conflict. Unfortunately, the rest of the plot has some weak batting which ultimately stops this tale from hitting a home run.

Recommended with reservations.

Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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