Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen!

  • Review
By – October 5, 2020

The first few chap­ters of this book are writ­ten as a series of let­ters by an eleven-year-old female mid­dle school stu­dent to a Major League super star pitch­er; the tone of the let­ters seem to be not quite main­stream. The let­ter writer, Vivian Jane Cohen, is a girl who wants to keep her eye on the ball in the only base­ball team her school has, which is all boys. But after a few let­ters and after the pro­fes­sion­al pitch­er responds, the read­er becomes aware that this pre­teen girl is on the high func­tion­ing end of the autism spectrum.

The let­ter to the pitch­er was an assign­ment for Vivy’s week­ly social skills class. Her unre­lent­ing per­sis­tence in writ­ing to the stranger final­ly gar­ners a reply. And around that time some­thing clicks and we begin to see the world through the eyes of Vivy. We feel her dis­com­fort, her fre­quent frus­tra­tions, and start learn­ing about her trig­gers and cop­ing mech­a­nisms. The insight into her world­view is sub­tly and del­i­cate­ly intro­duced and alters the whole tone of the book. The pre­vi­ous­ly slight­ly grat­ing char­ac­ter becomes more and more some­one we want to encour­age. The coach of the school team, enam­ored of her pitch­ing skills, is not suf­fi­cient­ly focused on her sen­si­tiv­i­ty issues but most of her team­mates learn to appre­ci­ate her and under­stand some of her prob­lems. The coach’s son, though, is an unre­lent­ing, nasty bul­ly who miss­es no oppor­tu­ni­ty to tor­ment Vivy, although there is not much insight into why he feels the need to con­tin­u­ous­ly bul­ly her. Her over­pro­tec­tive and dom­i­neer­ing moth­er tries to coax her out of the stress­ful posi­tion she has cre­at­ed for her­self and encour­ages her to quit the team she loves. One some­what con­fus­ing plot detail relates to Vivy’s adored old­er broth­er who sud­den­ly announces to his fam­i­ly at sup­per that he is gay. There is a bit of dis­con­nect between the mother’s reac­tions to her two children.

The book presents an invalu­able intro­duc­tion to what it is like to have autism by intro­duc­ing this sym­pa­thet­ic char­ac­ter as she devel­ops an inter­est­ing and com­plex rela­tion­ship via let­ters and email with a renowned base­ball star.

Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and free­lance writer, Helen Weiss Pin­cus, has taught mem­oir writ­ing and cre­ative writ­ing through­out the NY Metro area to senior cit­i­zens and high school stu­dents. Her work has been pub­lished in The New York Times, The Record, The Jew­ish Stan­dard, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She recent­ly added Bub­by” to her job description.

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