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Throw Your Hands In The Air, If Youse A True Playa

Derek E. Sullivan's book about a morbidly obese baseball player strikes out in one big way.

Throw Your Hands In The Air, If Youse A True Playa

BOOK REPORT for Biggie by Derek E. Sullivan

Cover Story: Textual Feeling
BFF Charm: Hell No
Swoonworthy Scale:
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factor: Sportsball
Relationship Status: Get Some Help

Cover Story: Textual Feeling

I like the cover. There’s not much more to say about the current “text on solid color background” trend, though.

The Deal:

Biggie is morbidly obese in a Midwest town where baseball is king. In fact, his mother is now married to a former famous baseball player, and they spend most of their time making sure Biggie’s prodigy of a stepbrother is getting the ultimate training. Biggie is more interested in getting his crush to notice him – until the day he somehow throws a perfect game in gym class. Suddenly he’s working to lose weight and get on the team. For surely, if he’s the starting pitcher, all his dreams of love and popularity (or at least not being bullied) will come true.

BFF Charm: Hell No

I don't care how often you have been bullied, there is nothing fun or charming about a guy who hacks into girls' email accounts and remakes himself to be her "ideal" guy. Or who shows up at a girl's door, after ignoring her for months, and gets mad that she has a date. Or who tells that girl that her date only wants her for sex (but he doesn't! He's a nice guy!).

Biggie is the ultimate Nice Guy ™, where he will do or say anything to get into a girl's pants, but when the girls don't fall all over themselves to compliment him on how wonderful he is, he gets mad. Same with baseball: he'll kill himself to lose weight and get on the baseball team, but when he's not a starting pitcher, he rage quits. All of the guys he knows are jerks and they treat women badly (but not him!).

Do I think that this toxic masculinity vs. Nice Guy ™ is an attitude promoted and supported by our pop culture? Yes. But without some serious introspection, consequences, and a desire to change, there is no way Biggie is getting my BFF charm. Might as well buy him a fedora and direct him to the nearest MRA forum.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

I don’t know, maybe YOU would find it flattering if some guy faked an interest in your interests after horribly violating your privacy, but I don’t. This book was actually painful to read. Not because it's badly written or because I think Derek E. Sullivan doesn't realize that his protagonist's behavior is terrible -- it's painful because as a teenager, I dealt with many of these guys, and I didn't have the words to explain why their behavior wasn't acceptable. Biggie doesn’t really give its readers any guidance on that front, either.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Derek E. Sullivan’s voice is engaging and lively, despite his anti-hero protagonist – in fact, that’s one thing I really liked about this book. Biggie felt like a real teenager (albeit a deluded one with a martyr complex – sort of like Leonard in Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock), and that’s not an easy task to accomplish.

Bonus Factor: Sportsball

I actually hate baseball, but suspected that this wouldn’t be a strictly “baseball” book – and I was right. Better yet, the baseball parts somehow managed to take a sport I consider to be just as exciting as golf (how many of you can I alienate in one sentence? Let’s find out!), and imbue it with tension.

Casting Call:

The Fedora’d Gentleman Varsity Blues-era Ron Lester as Biggie

Relationship Status: Get Some Help

Book, our date was frustrating. You had a lot going on that I liked – your engaging voice and ability to make baseball interesting to me – but you ultimately left me horrified. You never seemed to understand why your behavior was terrible, and blamed a lot of problems entirely on being bullied about your weight. I don’t care if you’re skinny, fat, or in-between, but I do care about your entitlement complex. If you’d shown a desire to change your behavior (beyond one "Oh, I'm the bad guy here!" moment, never suffering any real consequences), I wouldn’t be warning all my friends to change their email passwords and steer clear.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from Albert Whitman & Company. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one.  Biggie is available now.

Jennie's photo About the Author: Jennie Kendrick lives in San Francisco and has an excessive fondness of historical fiction, spreadsheets, turquoise sparkly things, and bourbon. She is also a literary agent. When she's not reading, writing, or writing about reading, she cooks obsessively, and thrifts for vintage everything.