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Michael Arroyo is a 12-year-old boy with big dreams, especially for a poor Cuban refugee. He dreams of pitching in the Little League World Series and ultimately of playing in the major leagues like El Grande, his hero and fellow Cuban immigrant.

HEAT, a coming-of-age baseball novel by Mike Lupica, is aptly titled for two reasons.  Michael's fastballs can be clocked at over 80 miles per hour, so he's definitely capable of throwing some heat. But sadly, Michael is also feeling the heat in his difficult life. He lost his mother to cancer at a young age, and his father died of a heart attack just a few months after coming to America with Michael and his 17-year-old brother Carlos, leaving the boys to fend for themselves.

The only two people outside of their family who know of Michael's father's untimely demise are his best friend Manny Cabrera and his neighbor, Mrs. Cora. If the authorities found out Michael's secret, he and his brother might have to go into foster care or, even worse, be sent back to Cuba. Michael tells anyone who asks about his father that he is in Florida caring for his sick uncle. If this isn't enough to worry about, a coach from an opposing team signs a petition to have Michael removed from his team until he can obtain his birth certificate from Cuba.

Woven nicely into the main plot is Michael's first relationship with a mystery girl whom he spies watching him on the baseball field. In a surprise twist, the reader finds out who this young female is near the end of the story. Manny Cabrera --- Michael's best friend and catcher for his team --- is a richly drawn supporting character; his witty dialogue will capture the reader's attention.

HEAT is a fast-paced, tightly written novel with believable characters. Mike Lupica is a well-known sports columnist, and his experience in this particular field is quite evident in the action-packed sports scenes. HEAT has heart and will appeal to sports and non-sports fans alike.

Reviewed by Renee Kirchner on April 11, 2006

by Mike Lupica

  • Publication Date: April 11, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel
  • ISBN-10: 0399243011
  • ISBN-13: 9780399243011