An emotional meltdown at a figure skating competition gets 12-year-old Kaitlin kicked out of her high-status skating club and jettisoned by her longtime coach in this middle-grade sports novel.
Rejected by the rest of the respected clubs, Kaitlin must join a rink filled with misfits and problem skaters that is seen as a joke in her hypercompetitive world. There’s a lot of great stuff in Nall’s figure skating novel, narrated in the first person and largely aimed at girls. The atmosphere is particularly redolent, and the setup—Kaitlin’s outburst and its unexpected life-changing aftermath—gives fascinating insight into the largely veiled world of junior competitive skating. Although a technically adept skater, what’s keeping Kaitlin back is her inability to make the emotional inner connection she needs to skate her heart out. How she learns to do this is the stuff of the duller and more muddled middle, which features more characters and situations than the novel can effectively handle. The formerly rule-following Kaitlin rebels in small but important ways, finds the courage to ask for what she wants, crushes on a cute boy and makes real friends. Unfortunately, Nall’s thesis, that this journey gives Kaitlin the emotional experience she needs to soar as an artist, fails to convince.
After a strong beginning, this atmospheric but overstuffed novel flounders, rallying at the end to pull off a touching finish. (Fiction. 8-12)