I picked this as the book for the first challenge of Book Riot’s read harder challenge “Read a book about Sports”. This was the category that put me off the challenge most, as I’m not a huge fan of sports and the idea of reading a novel about it put me off. But, I figured that was the whole point of the challenge! I used to do some gymnastics when I was younger and so decided that I’d pick a book focusing on that so at least it would be something I had some familiarity with.
This book focuses on the stories of five different Olympic hopefuls during the two days of the US Olympic Gymnastics trials as they all hope to be one of the five girls selected out of 12 contenders. Each girl has her own struggle – Grace’s whole life revolves around Gymnastics and she’s determined to be the best no matter what, Leigh loves gymnastics but is afraid that she is too big, Camille qualified for the previous Olympics but that dream was shattered due to a car accident and so she’s now hoping to make her comeback, Wilhemina was just a few days too young last time to compete and so she’s desperate to make it in this year and Monica is new and young and feels like she doesn’t belong.
Over the two days, the girls compete in their events while revealing more of their dreams and motivations. The focus is a lot less on the sport, and more on the girls themselves which is part of the reason I enjoyed it so much. I enjoyed watching each of them deal with their own personal struggles and the constant doubting on whether they were good enough. There was a lot of focus on their relationships – both with each other and with those in the “outside world” as they never knew if they could trust their fellow gymnasts or not. I was rooting for all five of them to make it, even though I knew some of them would fail. The ending in particular was excellent and I really enjoyed seeing who made it into the team and who didn’t, along with their reactions to that.
Despite thinking this was going to be the worst book of the challenge, I ended up really enjoying this and would definitely recommend it to fans of contemporary YA. It seems really well researched and has a useful glossary at the back of gymnastics terms for those that are unfamiliar with the sport.