Fifteen-year-old gymnast Charlie is determined to earn a place on Team USA.
For years, the white athlete has worked to keep her successful gymnastics career separate from her school life, hoping to escape the scrutiny that accompanies fame. However, with Olympic trials looming, maintaining the facade of a typical high school student becomes complicated for this elite athlete. Charlie’s narration reveals the intense personal commitment and training required when competing for a place on the Olympic team. She struggles over her conflicting desires to pursue her Olympic dreams and to experience teenage life outside the world of competitive gymnastics. Olympic gold medalist Johnson, who should know, also examines the complications of fame as Charlie expresses trepidation about its potential effects on her privacy and relationships. Aware of her coach’s calamitous history at Olympic trials—her Olympic dreams unraveled amid a scandal over a revealing photograph—Charlie realizes that distraction can affect her concentration and focus. Yet when her friendship with a boy from school evolves into something more, Charlie finds herself divided between her two lives. Johnson adeptly captures Charlie’s life as an elite athlete and effectively addresses the more familiar teen issues of first dates and first romantic relationships. She skillfully builds the emotional intensity of the tale, culminating in a suspenseful finale at the Olympic trials.
Johnson’s first novel for teens is an absorbing portrait of a young athlete’s quest to achieve her Olympic dreams. (Fiction. 12-16)