Cover Reveal: Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning
by Sarah Henning, author of Throw Like a Girl and Sea Witch
Hello, my name is Sarah, and I think girls are superheroes. Which is exactly why I wrote a book called Throw Like a Girl.
Growing up, I was a competitive gymnast. I’d loved the sport since I was old enough to walk and talk, and by the time I was competing myself, I was idolizing girls—Kim Zmeskal, Dominique Dawes, Kerri Strug—who could fly.
I spent twenty-five hours a week in a gym and there I was strong.
But outside of the gym?
My strength didn’t translate. I was a cheerful, 4-foot-10 blonde, repeatedly underestimated just for being exactly that.
And that was…annoying. I wasn’t helpless, inferior, or weak, and neither were my heroes. I didn’t appreciate the notion that I was less than in any capacity because of my sex. No matter how “nice” anyone was about it when they were telling me in various ways that I was just a girl.
A few years later, I became a sports journalist. I loved the built-in drama, the stakes, and the stories of hard work and passion baked into competitive athletics. And so, I earned my “Sephora money” in college working for The Associated Press, covering football and basketball. I was the sports editor of my university paper. I got internships at major newspapers, covering sports or working on the sports copy desk.
And, yet. I was still just a girl.
I’d show up to a golf tournament and be dogged by the leader’s father, who demanded that I answer his pop quiz questions about what constituted a birdie, double-bogey, eagle. I’d be hit on while interviewing the winner of a 5K. I’d tell people what I did for a living and was nine times out of ten met with, “Sports? Really?”
Again, annoying, but the truth of the matter is that every one of those instances from childhood through adulthood formed the foundation of who I am as a young adult writer. Turns out, I love writing girls who thrive in male-dominated spaces, and who weather the same sorts of micro-aggressions I faced as both an athlete and a journalist.
So, when I sat down to write a story about a female athlete, I immediately knew I wanted to drop my main character smack dab in the middle of a sacred spire of “manhood”: the football field. Add in some swoony romance, big life choices, and as many blackmail burgers as a little brother can eat and you have Throw Like a Girl—titled just so as to take a sex-based, gym class insult and twist it into something positive.
My main character, Liv Rodinsky isn’t just a girl—she’s a damn fine athlete and everyone around her knows it, appreciates it, and celebrates it. She’s at the top of her game in softball, and it’s her ticket to everything she wants in life, most notably a college education.
But when she puts that ticket in jeopardy with one ill-timed (but well deserved) punch, her life takes a left turn she never sees coming. From there, Liv goes on a journey that tests all her strengths—physical, emotional, and mental—while learning to make her own choices, trust her heart, and that standing up for herself doesn’t necessarily mean walking away.
Below is the first chapter of Throw Like a Girl. I hope you enjoy it.
In every baseball movie ever, it’s the same.
Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Two out.
The crowd breathless at the batter’s back. The players in the dugout on their feet. The opposing pitcher staring daggers from the mound with steam pouring from flared nostrils.
At the plate: the team’s star, bat pointed toward the wall, challenge clear.
In real life—in softball—it doesn’t exactly work out that way.
But not as if penned by a writer’s hand.
It’s the bottom of the seventh—there aren’t nine innings in high school softball. But the bases are loaded. And there are two out.
The crowd is breathless, the players in the dugout are on their feet, and the opposing pitcher has got the raging-bull thing going on from the mound.
But the team’s star isn’t at the plate.
She’s on it.
Wilted in the dirt after taking a seventy-mile-per-hour fastball to the back. Motionless. Eyes stunned open. All senses on pause, a rolling clap of pain drowning out everything else.
As the crowd holds its collective breath, I search for mine. My lungs don’t seem to be working, and the catcher and umpire both loom over me, outlines blurry with the same fuzzy energy as a 3-D movie left to the naked eye.
I blink a few times. First at the lights. Then at the catcher and ump. And, finally, at the upside-down eagles name scrawled across my chest, willing my rib cage to nudge my lungs into action.
Up. Down. Up. Down. In. Out. In. Out.
The sound comes flooding in as my chest finally rises. The shouts of my teammates, the sweet girls of Windsor Prep, will me up. My coach’s voice—my sister’s voice—above them all.
“Stand, Liv! Stand!”
I make it to my feet, back hot and lungs still warming up.
Brows pulled together, I shoot my game-day glare at the mound. Kelly Cleary’s red hair clashes horribly with her stupid orange-and-white uniform; her cat-eye liquid liner is so thick it hides the fact that she has actual eyes. And they must not be able to see worth crap, because she just hit a batter with the bases loaded and one down.
Which means that if I can walk over to first base, everyone advances and we score a run to tie it. Not exactly the walk-off grand slam of my dreams, but it’s one way to move out of this round and into the Kansas state championship game.
Or at least get one run from doing that.
Again, another true-life technicality.
Both sides of the crowd are clapping, because that’s just what you do when someone gets hit by a pitch. My parents, brother, and Heather are on their feet. My teammates are a rowdy block of purple, crowding the dugout rail, ribbons and ponytails kissing their cheeks in the breeze, clapping me to first.
“Nice job, O-Rod!” There’s my best friend, Addie, cheering even though she’s about to bat.
My sister, Danielle, has her arms crossed over the eagles scrawled on her chest, the wedding ring Heather gave her two years ago glinting in the stadium lights. She does her stern-coach nod. It’s a look I first saw at age three, when she was twelve and egging me on as I threw her the ball for the millionth time. She was a hell of a player, but she’s always—always—been a coach.
On the other end of the stadium, I spy my boyfriend, Jake. Dreads to his shoulders, he’s dressed out in his orange football jersey, number thirty-two, clapping along with a few teammates in Northland’s section of the crowd. Wearing their jerseys out of season to big games is a tradition, or so he says. But while he looks the part of a good, supportive student athlete from the rival school, I know that even though we’ve only been dating since the Spring Prep Preview photo shoot at the Kansas City Star in February, he’s totally here for me.
Below the Northland section is its dugout where the Tigers’ veteran coach, Trudi Kitterage, observes from the steps. Coach Kitt looks like the burnt-bacon version of a head cheerleader—all hard curves and tan lines. But her talent is real. And her team is good. Too good for Kelly’s mistake. Meaning, if I sawed Kelly in half with my own glare, Coach Kitt’s stare is roasting the pieces of her in a bonfire of why-the-hell-did-you-do-that.
Because in ten of my shuffling steps, we’ll be tied.
Eight more steps. Six. Four. Two.
And then I’m on the bag at first, squeezing in next to Stacey Sanderson. Who, up until a minute ago, was my least favorite player on the Northland team.
She can hit. She can run. And she’s Jake’s gorgeous ex-girlfriend.
From, like, two years ago. Or something. Whatever. I’m not sure—but there’s a history there. And she’s been reminding me of it the whole game. Giving me side-mouthed sass every time I’ve gotten on base. Which, let’s be honest, has been a lot.
This time, I strike first. Shaking my head as I clap home our third-base runner, Rosemary, for the tying score. “One away, Sanderson. All because your girl Cleary can’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
The corners of Stacey’s mouth quirk up but her eyes stay at home, where Addie is settling into her mega-erect stance. The girl can dunk and hit the three, but she’s a praying mantis in cleats. “I’d say she hit the broad side of something, all right.”
I snort and roll my eyes. “Jake loves my curves.”
“Jake also runs headfirst into a pack of bodies for three months a year. Brain cells aren’t his forte, Rodinsky.”
Addie dusts Kelly’s curveball, but it falls straight into the catcher’s mitt. Strike one.
Come on, McAndry. Just a base hit. No extra innings. Just a straight seven-inning pass to the championship.
Stacey sniffs. “I have a lot of admirers of my ass, thankyouverymuch.”
I don’t even miss a beat. “They’re just trying to figure out how you sit comfortably on something so flat.”
Addie squares her shoulders and waits for another pitch, looking very bad ass. Kelly is taking forfreakingever, so I start to inch off base and away from Stacey’s fish lips. But then Cleary actually does something right and whips the ball to first. I hit the dirt just in time, fingertips grazing the base before Stacey gets the tag.
Called safe, I stand, not bothering to wipe off the dust streaking across my chest and the Eagles logo.
“Nice skunk streaks, Rodinsky.”
Whatever. I keep watching Addie, willing her to mow down whatever-the-hell pitch Cleary finally comes out with.
“I think they highlight my assets much better than my uniform on its own,” I shoot back.
“I’m not so sure about that”—here comes the pitch, fast and straight, and square in the batter’s box—“better ask your sister.”
Addie’s bat rockets forward and connects, sending the ball straight into the gap between second and third, dropping short of the outfielder at left.
My body knows it’s supposed to run—it’s been trained to run at the crack of the bat for the past thirteen years—but my mind is reeling. Did she just imply what I think she implied?
Stunned, I stutter-step, weighed down by her voice in my ears. Somehow, I move forward enough to make it to second, giving Addie room at first so Christy can score the walk-off run. But my brain is back at first. Where Stacey is standing, punching her free hand into her glove, pissed that Northland’s state run is now officially over. She’s a senior, so it’s really the end of her road. We’ve won and she’s ended her high school career with a loss.
I should smile. Collapse in relief. Cheer about going to the championship game. But I can’t—not until I respond. I have to say something. I can’t just let her say something like that and then go home like it didn’t happen.
Sanderson is moping at first, so I jog back down the first-to-second line. My teammates are all celebrating at home base with Christy, but there’s no way I can go straight there. I drop in next to Stacey, now walking in the direction of her dugout.
“What did you say?” My voice is clipped.
She doesn’t even look in my direction. “Nothing.”
“No, I think you did. And I think you meant something very specific.”
Stacey’s eyes roll my way. They’re a muddy shade of brown, made worse by the fact that her eyebrows are on the endangered species list. “Doesn’t it bother you? Your sister being paid to check out your teammates?”
She purses her lips and says, slowly, “You heard me. Your sister. Is paid. To check out. Your teammates.”
The knuckles of my right hand smack her straight across the ski jump of her obnoxiously pert nose, and we tumble to the infield dirt. I have her pinned, my butt across her kidneys, knees on either side of her squirming stomach.
“Don’t talk about my sister like that!”
At the taste of infield, she bucks wildly and we both land on our sides. She scrambles on top of me but I get her hard across the nose again. She yelps, blood leaking onto her lips.
“You owe me a new nose!”
Her right hand goes back, fingers pulled into a fist. I see a heavy caking of dirt across her knuckles before she misses my nose and lands a blow square to my right eye.
Tears immediately begin to pool at my lash line. We’re upended again, and I’m on top of her long enough to score one more open palm to her cheekbone before I’m finally yanked away by at least two teammates. Maybe three or four.
I vaguely hear Addie’s voice. “Be cool, O-Rod! Cool! Liv. OLIVE.”
It seems to come almost from the inside of my head rather than outside, where the crowd has gone for a collective gasp.
Her words and hands carry me—I’m tall, but Addie’s taller and stronger, using all her leverage to pull me away. More hands come. More voices, too. Above the din, I hear Danielle, her coach voice turned up to eleven. “Hey, hey, hey! Stop! Stop!”
Three of Stacey’s teammates have a hold on her—two at her shoulders, Kelly Cleary at her waist. The girl’s still swinging, though, blood dripping down her chin and onto the stylized Tigers logo scrawled across her boobs.
Coach Kitt strolls over and calmly fills Sanderson’s line of sight just as I’m wrenched in the opposite direction of Stacey and right into the arms of Danielle, who can’t quit it with the “Hey, stop!”
She hooks one of her arms around my shoulders and hauls me toward the dugout. The move effectively turns both our backs on the celebration happening at home plate, delayed initially when everyone stopped to watch us fight. On Danielle’s word, the assistant coaches run out to get our team set to shake hands with Northland. My good eye tries to look up at her, but all I see is her lips quiver.
When she speaks, it’s at a disappointed whisper—one I hear over the crowd, over my teammates hesitantly going back to celebrating our state championship berth, over the pounding of my heart that’s doing a drum solo for my ears.
“Olive Rodinsky, how could you.”
When softball star Liv Rodinsky throws one ill-advised punch during the most important game of the year, she loses her scholarship to her fancy private school, her boyfriend, and her teammates all in one fell swoop. With no other options, Liv is forced to transfer to the nearest public school, Northland, where she'll have to convince their coach she deserves a spot on the softball team, all while facing both her ex and the teammates of the girl she punched...Every. Single. Day.
Enter Grey, the injured star quarterback with perfect hair and an even more perfect plan: if Liv joins the football team as his temporary replacement, he'll make sure she gets a spot on the softball team in the Spring. But it will take more than the perfect spiral for Liv to find acceptance in Northland's halls, and behind that charming smile, Grey may not be so perfect after all.
With well-drawn characters and a charming quarterback love interest who's got brains as well as brawn, Throw Like a Girl will have readers swooning from the very first page.