: The Year I Lost My Grip
, a young adult novel by Jordan Sonnenblick, follows the main character Peter Friedman, a high-schooler who finds himself lost when his hopes of becoming an all-star baseball player are ruined due to an elbow injury. He throws himself into photography, instead, and in the process, comes to accept a difficult fact about his aging grandfather, with the help of his new friend, Angelika.
Peter, an incoming high school freshman, is thrilled to try-out for the baseball team with his good friend AJ, both of whom have dreamed since they were young about becoming all-star high school baseball players and moving from there into the big leagues. Peter is a skilled pitcher, and he knows that he and AJ will dominate their high school team once they leave middle school and start their lives as teenagers.
Unfortunately, Peter's last pitch during his middle school baseball career ends in a blown-out elbow. Peter visits the doctor, who tells him that the damage he has done is so severe that it wouldn't be wise for him to continue playing baseball, particularly not as a pitcher. Weak from the injury, Peter doesn't think he'll ever be able to pitch well again; he has no idea how to tell AJ that their dream to join the team together has been ruined by one bad pitch. Things become even more difficult when AJ keeps talking to Peter about their spring training camp, despite the fact that he knows Peter's elbow makes it impossible for him to play. Peter starts to wonder if he and his best friend will have anything left to bond over now that they no longer share their dream of baseball super-stardom.
To get his mind off of his lost pitching career, Peter decides to explore his other interest: photography. Peter's grandfather, a skilled photographer, photographed all of Peter's childhood, local weddings, sporting events, and even took photos of war zones during his younger years. One day, though, Peter's grandfather makes the sudden, strange decision to give up photography altogether. Knowing that Peter is struggling to find a new calling, Peter's grandfather offers to give him all his photography equipment. Peter has been learning the ins and outs of photography for years alongside his grandfather and is grateful for the chance to throw himself into something new.
In the first semester of his freshman year of high school, Peter decides to enroll in a photography class. Because of his prior knowledge, he is placed in Advanced Photo. He is the only freshman student in the class other than a girl named Angelika, who is an equally skilled photographer. Peter and Angelika hit it off, soon becoming close friends.
Meanwhile, Peter's grandfather has started acting strangely. After suddenly quitting photography and refusing to offer any more advice to Peter about the art, he starts leaving post-it notes all over his house with reminders to do mundane tasks such as brushing his teeth and washing the dishes. Peter starts to vent to Angelika about his concerns and feelings about his grandfather's strange behavior but refuses to see that there might be a larger problem than just the post-it notes and the end of photography lessons.
As the book comes to a close, Peter begins to find hope for himself in capturing photos to preserve memories, at the same time that Angelika helps him come to terms with his grandfather's Alzheimer's diagnosis, which is causing him to lose parts of himself day by day. Though at first Peter has no idea how to handle all of the sudden changes in his life, he realizes through this new friendship and his new love for photography the way that change, though difficult, isn't always a negative thing. The book is ultimately about friendship, family, passion, and coming to terms with the idea that not everything in life will turn out the way one imagined – for better or for worse.
Jordan Sonnenblick is the author of ten books for children and young adults. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an eighth grade English teacher at Phillipsburg Middle School in New Jersey. His first novel, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie
was published in 2004 and tells a fictionalized version of a true story about the brother of one of his younger students, who was diagnosed with cancer. Curveball
, his seventh novel, is a stand-alone book. He has also written the Dodger
series, a trilogy of humor books about a boy and his imaginary best friend. His latest book is Falling Over Sideways
, published in 2016, which features main character Claire as she discovers that the only thing more challenging than navigating middle school is learning how to navigate it while in the midst of a family medical crisis.