Quick Info about Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!
|Title||Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!|
|Release Date||February 25th, 2020|
|Representation||Autistic main character; Jewish family; Gay side character|
|Content Warnings||Bullying from peers; Helicopter parent; Adults who don’t listen to the child’s needs; Ableism (most against autism)|
|Synopsis||In this epistolary middle grade novel, Vivy Cohen won’t let autism stop her from playing baseball–not when she has a major-league pitcher as her pen pal.|
|Vivy Cohen wants to play baseball. Ever since her hero, Major League star pitcher VJ Capello, taught her how to throw a knuckleball at a family fun day for kids with autism, she’s been perfecting her pitch. And now she knows she’s ready to play on a real team. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone she knows, she writes to VJ and tells him everything about how much she wants to pitch, and how her mom says she can’t because she’s a girl and because she has autism. And then two amazing things happen: Vivy meets a Little League coach who invites her to join his team, the Flying Squirrels. And VJ starts writing back.|
Why You Should Read Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!
1. Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! is a novel told in letters
Well, it starts out in letters that Vivy and VJ mail back and forth, then it quickly switches over to emails, but those are really the same thing. I know it’s been done before but I was really curious about how a story in letters would work, and let me just say it worked beautifully here. Vivy and VJ each have a distinct voice and it’s really easy to see how their relationship develops through these emails. The two have their own way of telling stories, and they’re both great at it. I love the way this is narrated.
2. #OwnVoices autistic and Jewish rep!
The representation that’s more advertised is, of course, the autistic main character. But I’m not seeing really anyone talk about the fact that Vivy and her family are Jewish and it plays into her character pretty prominently. (Seriously, I could only find one review on Goodreads that mentions it! Shout out to Anniek!) I mean, the book isn’t about her being Jewish, but she brings up preparing for her bat mitzvah several times in her emails and you can tell from her narration that it’s an important part of her life. And, of course, Sarah Kapit is both autistic and Jewish herself which just makes the characters feel even more authentic and fun to read about.
3. There’s lots of baseball talk
The baseball player that Vivy writes to is fictional, but all of the other baseball talk is very real! It’s mentioned a few times that VJ plays for the San Francisco Giants, and Mike Trout and Jose Altuve are brought up throughout the book, so obviously MLB exists in this world. I think that’s great because it’ll bring in kids who watch baseball games with their families, and they can see these names and say “I know who that is!” Even outside of MLB, the characters talk about little league baseball, the mechanics and mystique of the knuckleball, the role of a pitcher, and even more. It’s fun all around for baseball lovers.
However, I want to add that Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! totally isn’t the type of story where you need to have prior knowledge of baseball to understand and enjoy. There’s a great balance!
4. This is a story of what’s possible
One of the most important things about this book is that Vivy doesn’t believe that being autistic makes her worth any less than anyone else. Unfortunately, her mother tries to hold her back an annoying amount. She thinks Vivy’s not safe playing baseball and wants her to pick up a “safer” hobby. While Vivy doubts herself now and then (because, well, if the people around you don’t support you, it’s rough), she doesn’t particularly look down upon herself. She’s very capable of achieving her dreams and, man, is she determined, too.
She wonders a lot why others think less of her and working through those feelings is a big part of the story. Ultimately, she learns who her support system is and she comes into that confidence that’s always been trying to break out of her. I loved how she never felt or was deemed “hopeless” at any point of the story because there are just too many narratives surrounding what autistic people “can’t do”. This is a story of what is possible.
5. It deals with finding your support system
There is thankfully a lot of character growth in this book, but holy heck did Vivy’s mother frustrate me. I know she was really trying to help Vivy but she didn’t really stop to ask Vivy what she needed. It was always “You need to see this counselor who doesn’t understand you to learn to control your emotions. You need to go to social skills classes so you can fit in with everyone else. You need to pick a different special interest because baseball is unsafe.” Every time her mother did something like this I wanted to rip my hair out.
But that was part of the conflict — working things out with her mother, which even leads to Vivy growing closer to her father and brother, which I loved to see. Similarly, baseball introduced a new bully into her life (the coach’s son), but she also made great friends through playing it. It all works out in the end!
6. Sometimes you mess up, but it’s never the end of the world!
Some of the examples I have in mind are spoilers, so I won’t go into detail. Vivy does a lot of growing up and self-discovery in this one book and I just loved seeing her come into herself in the ways that she did. That, of course, doesn’t come without bumps in the road so Vivy has to learn how to better herself after mistakes, mend relationships, and actually work on doing better. This is such an important book, especially for autistic kids. Especially for autistic girls.
7. Overall, it’s an easy read to get into
None of the chapters are particularly long, which makes it easy for readers with ADHD (like me!) to get into the story and fly through it. Vivy’s whole character is charming and easy to root for, and even though she’s fictional, I wish her all the best. She really deserves the world. Please pick this one up and/or buy it for the kids in your life.