Cassie Garnet hates the word mediocre. Yet her existence in a rural Indiana town could certainly be labeled that if not for her place on the cross country team. With her senior year approaching, Garnet has been River Bend High’s best runner … but she longs to be better. Cassie has never been challenged and pushed to reach her potential, and the Lady Coyotes are a terrible team. Then, everything changes. When the beautiful and charismatic Charna Rothstein Simon moves to River Bend to become a teacher and cross country coach, Cassie’s senior year will be anything but ordinary. C.R. Simon will raise eyebrows and push Cassie Garnet on both the running trails and as a person. The Jewish Simon will also challenge stereotypical perceptions in River Bend, a conservative town where “different” is viewed as threatening to its way of life. Cassie’s journey through the cross country season and growth as a serious runner is a captivating story. Kyesha Hendrix—the only African American student at River Bend and Cassie’s unlikely training partner—will join Jake Nader— basketball star and Cassie’s romantic interest to make her senior year one to remember. Before that year is over, Cassie will be forced to take a stand when accusations are made about someone Cassie respects. The consequences for speaking out and challenging the establishment will change her life forever. Cassie’s story is about her last cross country season at a small Indiana town, but its universal themes resonate far beyond the city limits of River Bend, Indiana. No Ordinary Season and its valuable human lessons will stay in your mind and heart long after you finish its final climatic pages.
- As a retired teacher, I give this book five stars! There are such important messages for today's young people. It is a captivating story about the high school girl's cross country track team and the various challenges they encounter. Would be a great pick for all high school libraries.
David L. Amor
- In Cassie Garnet, author Jacobs has created a spunky, appealing and brave young woman and set her story in a completely believable small Indiana town. Cassie's voice, which guides the reader through the story, first retrospectively and then in the present, is completely authentic and compelling. As a longtime Midwesterner, I recognize this spirited, good-hearted high school senior, who is not really engaged in her schooling but loves running cross-country -- somewhat at loose ends but eager for a challenge to push her higher. And I recognize, too, the small-town community she shows us so candidly: struggling economically, divided by race and class, caught between traditional habits and changing realities. It is the new coach-cum-chemistry teacher -- a sophisticated, educated, urban, independent, high-energy Jewish woman -- who brings the latent tensions to the breaking point as she challenges a lackadaisical team to take their running more seriously than ever before. Cassie's world -- and her understanding of it -- changes in a plot that is gripping, satisfying and unfailingly honest.
Glen W. Bocox
- Being a person whose reading tastes lean more to Vince Flynn, Lee Child, and David Baldacci, the “young adult fiction” genre is not something that I would turn to without encourage or by request. That being said, I was glad when my friend Jim Jacobs asked me to read his first book entitled No Ordinary Season. Now, however, I am thrilled that I did!
Using the vehicle of a high school girl’s cross-country team, a new and mysterious teacher/coach, success and failure, as well as young love, Jim tells a first-person story of an incoming senior struggling to establish her personal identity and find her way in the midst of prejudice, racism, justice, and adults on all parts of the maturity continuum.
The first half of the book sets the stage for the “can’t-put-it-down” second half: an exciting state cross-country meet and a small town coming to terms with itself in very dramatic fashion. It amazes me that Jim has been able to capture so well the mood, language, and angst of a 17-year-old girl…clearly, during all those years as a teacher and as a father, he was paying attention and listening carefully and with great depth!
The greatest compliment I can give about this book is this: of all the books I have read in my lifetime, my all-time favorite is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Jim Jacobs has managed to make Scout Finch come alive for me once again through the character of Cassie Garnet. Thank you, Jim, for that amazing literary gift!
Susan Van Kirk
- In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say I wrote the foreword for this book and was honored to do so. I think Jim Jacobs' book is a wonderful story for both teenagers and adults. No Ordinary Season is structured around a teenager named Cassie Garnet and her senior year on the cross country team of River Bend High School in a small town in the Midwest. Jacobs has created the world of teenagers with all their hopes, disappointments, lack of confidence, and conflicts about so many things. Its messages are very much needed in today's world. I loved this book, and I think other readers will too.
- I started reading this book because the author is a good friend, and I was curious to see what his first young-adult novel was like. But I continued to read the book because I was totally drawn in to the characters and their struggles. What really surprised me was how much I got interested in the story of the girls' cross-country team--the coaching strategies, the nature of team effort in a sport resting on individual performance, what practices are like, and more. I had no idea what goes into this sport, and found the account extremely interesting. Add to that issues of social interaction in a small town, and I was hooked.
- No Ordinary Season held my attention to the end. Set in a small town in the Midwest the story follows the River Bend High School girl's cross country team under the guidance of Coach Simon. The team learns more than strategies and how to improve their running times as they deal with small town gossip, prejudice, and character assassination. Beautifully written, all the physical and emotions feelings of high school girls is captured with amazing accuracy. This is an extra-ordinary book!
- I highly recommend the reading of Jim Jacobs’s work of young adult fiction, No Ordinary Season. Though I must admit I am out of my element in this genre. I would freely acknowledge that it is a greater testimonial to a book when one who largely reads non-fiction and older literature finds such a story engaging.
I couldn’t help thinking of those writings that are more familiar and quite dear to me. Jim has written a book in the best Midwestern tradition of exploring the social conscience, or sometimes the lack of such. This is in the tradition of Mark Twain, Robert G. Ingersoll, Theodore Dreiser, Edgar Lee Masters and of course, Galesburg’s own Carl Sandburg.
I couldn’t get Carl Sandburg’s, Always the Young Strangers, off my mind as read the pages of Jim’s book. Carl Sandburg wrote of his boyhood and coming of age here in the Midwest, coming from a family that believed in kindness to one’s fellow humans and that all should live that way. Also, young Carl and “Cassie” share those bitter experiences of going into the world and learning that not everyone is of that mindset. Just as Carl Sandburg had found that one person who entered his life at a critical moment in Philip Green Wright, Jim’s character, “Cassie”, has that kind of a person enter her life in the form of Coach C. R. Simon. Often one person entering one’s life and bringing certain messages and experiences makes all the difference in the rest of one’s life. The reader is confident that “Cassie” in No Ordinary Season has had that kind of experience that is transformative for life.
Jim’s book is more than a typical coming of age book but explores the difficulties of young people, their parents and teachers when they place the development of a moral social conscience more highly than fitting in. I can only wonder if this is not a bigger challenge today than in the times of Sandburg’s boyhood.
- I finished No Ordinary Season yesterday and was so very pleased. I especially enjoyed the characters - the teen mind is very hard to capture & I feel that the author did a great job with Cassie, as well as the other characters. The description of the summer weather was true to the humid Midwest. And of course, the story held my interest throughout.
I also liked the feel of the paper, the type and the cover - shows how much the author cares about his readers.
Pamela A. Van Kirk
- Author James Jacobs portrays young adults with the understanding of a father and the experiences of a teacher. The struggles for the high school students are real. Their dialogue is authentic and the conflicts exist in high schools across the country. The book is about a cross country team, but in the context of running the issues of race, religion, poverty, and being different are addressed. This is a solid addition to young adult literature that will spark classroom discussions. A good book for adults, too
- My husband and I have both read this wonderful book and found it fascinating and a real page turner. It is a great story about High School youth and all the social and academic problems that go along with growing up in a small town. It was Indiana but it could have been anywhere. Thanks Jim for your insight into those growing up years and the importance of proper guidance for our youth.
- I enjoyed following Cassie through her senior year of cross country and seeing how she grew
in confidence with the help of her coach, Ms. Simon. The characters were interesting and I
must say it was hard to put this book down. It's a good read and I highly recommend it.
- Extremely well written. Reaches audience from teen to adult. Touches on today's tough issues. Also, brings to light racism and the results of racism are not just big city issues. These issues touch us all. Good teaching tool for all ages.
- Once I started the novel, I had a hard time putting it down. More importantly, the novel contains valuable life lessons, which is why I bought two extra copies of the book. One for my grand daughter who is a cross country runner. Another for a good friend who coaches high school cross country-both boys and girls.
- No Ordinary Season is a great coming of age book, with meaningful discussion of prejudice and class. The novel holds your interest. It moves quickly, has some surprises, and has characters you care about. It is filled with positive energy.
- Who doesn’t like a good race? I just finished reading No Ordinary Season by James V. Jacobs, and I must say I had a hard time putting it down. This book is a must read for teens and adults because the content is so relevant to the times. The story and characters are well developed giving the reader the sensation that he or she could be right there in the action and conversations. As one reads, the hard work, heart and determination it takes to be a high school cross-country runner becomes clear. You can feel the emotions between the characters…..tension, disappointment, empathy and compassion. This book serves up a variety of worthwhile discussion points, as the messages brought forth are powerful. In my opinion, the author has used his many years as an educator and coach to produce a skillfully written novel.
- Cassie's story will resonate with many readers. I liked her character immediately and wanted to know how she would tackle the various obstacles in her path. All the characters were well developed. As a side note, I felt like the story taught me quite a bit about the world of cross country running. I have attended meets as a photographer and fan, but I never knew the inside story of the challenges facing these athletes. The book would make a good choice for school libraries. The plot is realistic and carries a message about character building that readers of many ages will appreciate.
- I highly recommend No Ordinary Season as a must read for every high school student and their parents (and grandparents too) with the idea of discussing and understanding todays issues involving culture, gender and racial discrimination, as it relates to teenagers and their peers and how they view these issues.
Connie J. Dennis
- Really enjoyed this book. Every athlete and every coach should read. Powerful lessons of acceptance and friendship
Vicki K. Diefendorf
- I really enjoyed "No Ordinary Season" Cassie and her team were so real and active.
Midwest Book Review
- No Ordinary Season.
“An impressively compelling, exceptionally well written, inherently fascinating, and unfailingly entertaining read from beginning to end, No Ordinary Season
is an extraordinary novel that is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library General Fiction collections, as is very highly recommended for the personal reading lists of those who appreciated a finely crafted, multilayered 'coming of age' novel.”
Jewish Book Council - When its cross country coach dies of a stroke, the high school of River Bend is in for a big change. The replacement who’s finally hired is named C. R. Simon; it’s a shock to everyone to learn that this person is not only a woman, but also Jewish.
The ensuing story is narrated by Cassie, a senior at the high school. Cassie is immediately designated by the new coach as the captain of the team. This gives her leadership responsibility and the message that the team must work together to win. Ms. Simon applies her own no-nonsense approach to whip the team into shape. Cassie, who had always thought of herself as mediocre in sports and in life more generally, is surprised to learn that things can be different if she receives the right coaching.
No book about high school young women could fail to include a love focus, and Cassie chooses the high school basketball star as the man she wants in her life. The ups and downs of their interactions are not only interesting to follow, but also give readers insight into the challenges of any relationship.
The climax of the book occurs when the coach is accused of “inappropriate behavior,” and
readers will eagerly await the resolution of this explosive situation.
The main themes of the book include how gossip can destroy reputations, how self-confidence can be shaped by a competent mentor, how appearances can be deceptive, how hard work can lead to success; and how organization, professional leadership, and good people can change outcomes. The novel also deals with the presence of small-town bigotry and anti-Semitism. These are quite a few heavy ideas for one book, but the author addresses them with skill—and in doing so demonstrates the development of maturity, relationship-building, and trust.
Recommended for ages 12 to 16.