The Comeback Season

The last place Ryan Walsh should be this afternoon is on a train heading to Wrigley Field. She should be in class, enduring yet another miserable day of her first year of high school. But for once, Ryan isn’t thinking about what she should be doing. She’s not worried about her lack of friends, or her suffering math grade, or how it’s been five whole years since the last time she was really and truly happy. Because she’s finally returning to the place that her father loved, where the two of them spent so many afternoons cheering on their team. And on this—the fifth anniversary of his death—it feels like there’s nowhere else in the world she should be.

Ryan is once again filled with hope as she makes her way to the game. Good luck is often hard to come by at a place like Wrigley Field, but it’s on this day that she meets Nick, the new kid from her school, who seems to love the Cubs nearly as much as she does. But Nick carries with him a secret that makes Ryan wonder if anyone can ever really escape their past, or believe in the promise of those reassuring words: “Wait till next year.” Is it too much for Ryan to hope that this year, this season, might be her comeback season?

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Praise for The Comeback Season

“Ryan’s ‘comeback’ with the help of a new kid in school — a boy, and a Cubs fan — is convincingly put over the top.” – The New York Times

“…a novel about the complex deal-making that has become part of the lore of Cubs devotion…a piece of magical thinking that any baseball fan will recognize as eternally binding.” – The Los Angeles Times

“Smith, obviously well-versed in baseball, expertly navigates the themes of loss and the loss of innocence, too. She might be a rookie, but she hits a home run with a poignant and touching novel about hope, perseverance and the strength of the human spirit.” – The Columbus Dispatch

“Smith writes earnestly and gets the North Side atmospherics right…Sentimental believers will eat up Ryan’s tale.” – The Chicago Sun-Times

“…a deeply moving, often beautifully rendered story…[written] with scenes of genuine emotional power and language of sometimes breathtaking beauty and clarity…Smith is clearly a writer with extraordinary gifts, from whom great things should be expected.” – School Library Journal

“Smith deftly twines strands of grief, romance, baseball, family, and friendships lost and regained into this tale of a teenager who begins to the recover from the pain of an old loss while facing the prospect of a new one…the present-tense narrative has an immediacy that will engage readers and the supporting cast is unusually vivid…Ryan, a good-hearted sort with unusual sensitivity to glances and silences, is a protagonist that will strongly appeal to fans.” – Booklist

“…this moving debut isn’t so much about baseball as it is an examination of the roles that faith, luck and fate play in the game of life. Even though Smith’s clean, uncomplicated prose and gently told story are more Sarah Dessen than Chris Crutcher, both romantics and sports fans will find something here to like.” – Kirkus

“Smith is a smooth writer, and she has something wise to say about the way people process loss.” – Publishers Weekly

“A story that touches difficult subjects the way we gingerly touch a sensitive tooth…There is nothing sentimental about this story; nothing trite…An unusually poignant story.” – KLIATT

“…a really powerful story of love, loss, hope, and healing…an emotionally touching book.” – VOYA

“A wonderfully written story about love, heartache, and loss that digs deep into the most important lesson sports have to offer us — hope. As Smith so eloquently tells us, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about stepping up to the plate, over and over again. This story — impossible to put down — will stay with you like your biggest loss…and your greatest comeback.” — Tim Green, author of Football Hero

“Jennifer E. Smith has taken the themes of young love, deep loss, and professional baseball — in the form of the hapless Cubs — and turned them into a terrific read that overflows with passion and insight. Lessons about the saving nature of hope pervade this story of memory and yearning. Here’s one old sportswriter who calls The Comeback Season a leadoff homer by an All-Star rookie.” -Rick Telander, senior sports columnist, Chicago Sun-Times

The Comeback Season is a warm and brave, if heartbreaking, story about first love. It will make you cry and laugh and cry again!” — Melissa de la Cruz, author of The Au Pairs and Blue Bloods

The Comeback Season is one of those books that breaks your heart — and can’t be put down. It is a beautifully written story about loss of innocence, the strength of the human spirit, and why there is nothing quite like being a Chicago Cubs fan.” — John Feinstein, bestselling author of Last Shot