Review: KC, at Bat. A Novel by Tom Mendicino

Charlie Beresford would rather be doing anything this summer than hauling furniture for a moving company. Come September, he’ll be leaving for college, away from the awkwardness of Augustinian Academy, away from his father’s constant hints about prospective girlfriends. Then Kevin Conroy—the Mighty KC—joins the moving crew. A star baseball player bound for the big leagues, Charlie is shocked when cool, confident KC suggests hanging out, especially when KC asks him to stay over—and the happiness their connection brings Charlie.

But the summer is changing Charlie—putting muscles on his skinny frame, compelling him to face hard truths, showing him how it feels not just to lose your heart but to break someone else’s. Funny, sweet, and moving, Tom Mendicino’s insightful coming-of-age story perfectly evokes that moment when you stop living life from the safety of the bleachers—and finally step up to home plate.

KC, at Bat is a snapshot into the life of Charlie Beresford over one summer (mostly). The strange thing about this book is that I came to appreciate it more once I'd finished it than I did as I was reading it. Honestly, while I was reading it I kept waiting for the storyline to kick in - I mean it was there really, there was plenty of story, but I felt like I was being told something that would then kick start the story of the book, rather than the actual story itself. Confused? Yeah me too. Okay, you know that Indy film you watched last week/month/year, the one without the traditional Hollywood beginning, middle and end - that is this book, a fact that I fully appreciated once I'd finished it.

We see the events of Charlie's last summer before college. He was supposed to be a camp counsellor with his best friend (and experimental boyfriend) Larry. However his mum was in the middle of cancer treatment so instead he stayed home to help out and his dad's friend offered him a job with his removal firm. It is at this removal firm Charlie meets the legendary (at least in their school) KC. Sporty and an excellent baseball player KC is the stuff Charlie's dreams are made of, so he can hardly believe it when KC invites him back to his for the evening. An evening that turns into all night - a pattern that is repeated weekly and ends up as full weekends together.

I liked the relationship between Charlie and KC. We saw Charlie's insecurities but we also saw KC's too, as Charlie himself came to recognise them. It was true to life, that feeling of someone popular not having any problems or difficulties and the slow realisation that maybe their life is just as complicated and confusing. This isn't a book that you see a relationship develop from mumbled beginnings to an HEA. It is, as I said, a snapshot into Charlie's life. The choices he makes, good and bad, the reasons behind those choices, selfish and considerate, Charlie isn't a polished Hollywood version of a person, he is very real and this is evident in his decisions and actions.

Parts of this book made me sad, some bits made me angry. KC's coach - well that story line was horrible. The boys reactions to what happened made me want to throw my reader across the room, then I realised the sad truth was they acted in the way a lot of people do. It might not be the way we'd want them to act, certainly not the way things would happen in an ideal world, but it is a real reaction, for many, many people. An uneasy reminder of how life is.

Though the story didn't have a fairy tale ending, it was honest. Tom Mendicino could have written this differently, it could all have worked out in a happy little bubble but in a way I'm glad it didn't. It showed this portion of Charlie's life as it happened, warts and all. Was it a perfect book - no, but I'm glad I read it. It seemed to me its aim wasn't to be perfect but to be real and that, I think, it achieved.

 This copy was provided by the author for a fair and honest review