Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.com
There is a trend among young adult literature to stage the proceedings in big cities, well-known towns of glitter and glam such as Manhattan, Chicago, and Los Angeles. And although there are books out there that feature the small towns of America, they usually feature made up burgs and use euphemisms to get small-town life across. This is not the case with CATCH, and for that I can be grateful. I can be even more grateful that the author set his story in Mattoon, Illinois, a place that actually exists, is where Mr. Leitch grew up, and that is located only about two hours from both where I myself grew up and where I now reside.
Mattoon is a city, not a town, and is larger than my own hometown and yet smaller than the place I now call home. But when I opened up my copy of CATCH and immersed myself in the life and times of Tim Temples, I was immediately brought back to my own adolescent years. The Hardees parking lot where the high-school kids gather could be the same Hardees lot that I knew intimately from weekend cruising. The Lender's Bagels plant could be the reincarnation of the Quaker Oats plant that once resided in a neighboring town during my youth. Jacob Kuhns, the small-bit actor who is the most famous person ever to come from Mattoon in CATCH, and Tim's dad, who played Minor League baseball for a St. Louis Cardinal's affiliate in his younger days, could be dead-ringers for the celebrities of my own small hometown.
Tim's brother, Doug, attends the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana, a college I myself once considered attending. Jessica, the good-girl of Mattoon, could be any number of girls I went to school with. Could be, in fact, me. The "Buck Fush" bumper sticker can actually be seen, to this day, on the rusted out pick-up trucks I still see when I go back to my hometown for a visit. The yearly Bagelfest, with it's parade through downtown, mimics the ones I saw as a child.
In a word, CATCH brings to life small-town America in a way that no other book has ever done. Although it's the story of Tim Temples, of the summer between high-school graduation and probable college admittance, it's a lot more than that. It's the story of what it's like to grow up with everyone in town knowing your name; of the cops understanding that you're not a bad kid for having an open container of alcohol in your moving vehicle; of people expecting you to follow in the footsteps of a semi-famous father and brother that you know you'll never have the ability--or desire--to fill.
This isn't growing up in New York City, or L.A., or the gigantic metropolis that is Chicago. This is real life, real America, the ups and downs of growing up, of falling in love, and of wanting to be the kind of person you can be proud of. This is the story of a guy who wants to break out, not necessarily of small-town America, but of small-town thinking. This is Tim's story, and my story, and the story of hundreds of thousands of teenagers throughout Midwest America.
You can't go wrong reading CATCH, and Mr. Leitch can never go wrong by accepting who he is, where he came from, and who he's become--which is the author of one hell of a great book.