Fast Pitch - book cover
Growing Up & Facts of Life
  • Publisher : Crown Books for Young Readers
  • Published : 31 Aug 2021
  • Pages : 192
  • ISBN-10 : 1984893017
  • ISBN-13 : 9781984893017
  • Language : English

Fast Pitch

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a challenging and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a softball player looking to prove herself on and off the field.

Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds, is hyper-focused when she steps up to the plate. Nothing can stop her from leading her team to the U12 fast-pitch softball regional championship. But life has thrown some curveballs her way.
Strike one: As the sole team of all-brown faces, Shenice and the Firebirds have to work twice as hard to prove that Black girls belong at bat.
Strike two: Shenice's focus gets shaken when her great-uncle Jack reveals that a career-ending-and family-name-ruining-crime may have been a setup.
Strike three: Broken focus means mistakes on the field. And Shenice's teammates are beginning to wonder if she's captain-qualified.
It's up to Shenice to discover the truth about her family's past-and fast-before secrets take the Firebirds out of the game forever.

Editorial Reviews

"A grand slam of an adventure." -Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"Black girl magic hits a home run in Stone's latest novel." -Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Books like "Fast Pitch" are welcome evidence that writers for young readers are continuing to move beyond narratives in which the primary problem is a character's marginalization." -The New York Times

"Tensions are high as the plot bounces between gameplay and sleuthing, ultimately reaching a satisfying conclusion.... Readers of all ages will cheer for Shenice." -Booklist

"A sports mystery that will keep ­readers engaged from start to finish…Discussions about race and civil rights are seamlessly ­woven into the narrative through Shenice's own ­experiences." -School Library Journal

"This contemporary sports story goes beyond mere genre appeal; it is a novel of substance, carrying the weight of history." –The Horn Book

Readers Top Reviews

Julie DenOudenLeePet
With thanks to NetGalley and Crown Books for Young Readers for an early copy in return for an honest review. Shenice Lockwood is the captain of an all-Black softball team. She also comes from a family with a long history of baseball. I like how this book weaves together elements of realistic fiction and elements of historical fiction as Shenice tries to lead her team to the finals and solve the mystery of why her great grandfather was blamed for a crime. I really like when a book leaves me wanting to learn more about something, and by the end of the book I definitely wanted to learn more about the Negro Leagues. Overall, a good middle grade book.
A Bohman
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for the review copy of this book. This was intriguing to me because I have enjoyed Nic Stone’s work in the past and I played softball in high school. Holy moly, does Nic Stone know how to write a story! This follows Shenice Lockwood, captain of the Fulton Firebirds. The team is on the path to make history as the first team made of all-brown faces to win the U12 championship. However, Shenice’s concentration is broken by family drama. Long ago, her great, great grandfather was shunned from the major leagues when he was accused of a crime his younger brother swears he didn’t commit (and Great Uncle Jack has proof!) Determined to solve the mystery at hand and clear her great great grandfather’s name, Shenice runs the risk of letting down her team. Shenice is a strong and wonderful main character! I loved watching as she grew and reflected. It was really awesome to revisit a favorite character from Clean Getaway as well!
tnbrinson79R.L. Carl
Best book ever! My daughter read it with her class and Thoroughly enjoyed it. Relatable, fun and amazing all around. An east read, too for all ages!
Kelly A Van Kirk
This book hit a home run straight to my heart! I was leaking tears by the end because these characters made me love them and their stories so much. I can’t wait to share this one with my students!

Short Excerpt Teaser


Batter Up

We have to win this game. . . .

Like gotta win. No other option.

I've been playing base-related ball--first tee, now soft--since the minute I could hold up a bat. Just like my daddy. And his daddy before him. And his daddy before him. It's in my blood. And I learned the meaning of "love/hate relationship" in a game situation like this one.

It's the bottom of the sixth and we're up by three, but the opposing team is at bat. Bases are loaded, two strikes, two outs. Any time I say something is stressful, my mama rolls her eyes and says, "You're twelve, Shenice. You have no idea what that word means." But this? Is stressful.

As I drop back into my squat behind home plate, my eyes scan the field, and I inhale deep. Impossible to not notice--for me at least--how different our two teams look. While every player on mine, the Fulton Firebirds, has some shade of brown skin, all of the Stockwood Sharks girls are white.

Which is the case for most teams in the 12U division of the Dixie Youth Softball Association. DYSA, if you're feeling fancy.

Not only are we Fulton Firebirds the first all-Black team in this league--which even considering the name is a huge deal--we're the only team in the entire DYSA with more than three Black players on the roster.

Across eight states. All of which were on the pro-slavery side during the Civil War. Something my daddy reminds me of every time he sees "DYSA."

"It's a weight no one your age should have to carry, but can't ignore," he says. And he's right: Every win feels . . . historical.

I hate it . . . but also love it.

Victory is almost ours.

I hear the ump--a short dude whose middle is shaped like the highlighter-hued ball that gives this game I love so much its name--hock a loogie above my head. It slams into the dirt on my right with the force of a slimy bullet.

So gross.

I breathe in again, though it definitely makes me feel like the hot dog I ate earlier is going to join ump guy's blob of mucus beside me. The air has to be full of phlegm germs right now.

I gotta get my head back in the game. Yes, we're up, but I'd be lying if I said the Sharks aren't good.

They're real good, in fact.

But so are we.

We have to win this game.

Their best batter is at the plate--Steph Mahoney. I know her name because of her rep as a home-run hitter. Not surprising once you see the latest Louisville Slugger LXT choke-gripped between her half-covered hands. Her batting gloves are fingerless, which I've never seen in our league. But considering that bat costs 350 buckaroos, it's clear good ol' Steph is serious about this sport.

I lock gazes with our pitcher, Cala "Quickfire" Kennedy. My "teammate" since the days of rolling one of Daddy's baseballs back and forth in our shared playpen (though we haven't always played on the same actual team). She's the best, most epic fast-pitch heat thrower in the state. Likely even in all of Dixie, and maybe the whole country.

All she's gotta do is throw one more strike.

In my peripheral vision, I see the blond, freckly-faced girl on third base take a quick peek at her coach, who tugs at his right earlobe, and then brushes a finger beneath his nose. After a slight nod, she subtly steps one foot off the slightly raised white square, and shifts into a ready-to-run stance, eyes on Cala, like a little lion cub who has decided home plate is her prey.

Steal a run? Not on my watch.

We HAVE to win this game.

I "adjust" my face mask with my left hand--my signal to Hennessey Lane, our go-to third-base girl (and a robotics champion to boot), that the ball is coming at her fast so she can pick the runner off, which would win us the game--and within a second, Quickfire has thrown a pitch. It's wide, and Steph rightly doesn't swing. But I was right about blondie: she takes off from third.

Good thing they don't call me Lightning Lockwood for nothing. Before the ump can shout, "Ball two!" I've fired the yellow sphere at Hennessey, and the golden-haired Shark is diving back toward the base, her fingertips reaching the edge a mere breath before Hennessey tags her side, ball in glove.

"SAFE!" the third-base ump says, slashing his arms out to his sides.

Hennessey lobs the ball back to Cala, and as the LXT batter repositions herself, I use my fingers to signal my suggested pitch: rising curve, outside edge. Cala stands, centers, and whips her arm around quick as a camera flash. It hits my glove before I can blink--

"BALL THREE!" Loogie Ump barks behind me. His vo...