Freitas, who brought readers the delightfully feisty protagonist of The Possibilities of Sainthood (2008), is back with another determined young teen facing challenge.
Joey is a first-rate gymnast who has never actually won gold, but not for want of trying. Now she’s faced with training hard through the summer for Regionals. That would be okay, because she adores her sport, but good-looking Tanner has moved back to town, becoming a major distraction, and her best friend Alex is considering dropping out of training to spend more time with her new boyfriend. Joey’s parents, burned out after years of watching her older sister compete—often in pain from injuries—support her gymnastics training financially but frequently undermine the 13-year-old’s determination to persevere. (This is not completely credible, however, since they are otherwise involved with their children.) Joey’s very serious first-person narration is believable, and her cautious exploration of a budding relationship with Tanner rings true. Gymnastics routines are described using terminology that will only be familiar to gymnasts, adding authenticity to Joey’s voice; a spread of step-by-step illustrations of some of the skills helps clarify Joey’s descriptions of her routines. Talented young athletes will recognize and applaud Joey’s zeal; others might wish she could broaden her focus.
A sports story that handsprings away from romance and toward a commendable joy in accomplishment. (Fiction. 10-14)