The lives and vicissitudes of four gymnasts, in seventh to ninth grade, during the fall training leading up to their Class III Connecticut State Championship in January. Events and characters here are carefully chosen to exemplify the range in a demanding sport. Dina's father is so intent on her success that she often feels ill with nervousness at performing, especially on the beam that reminds her of her brother's accidental death. Jules' wealthy parents, preoccupied with their marital breakup, are almost totally nonsupportive. Mercy's busy but loving parents give her as much attention as they can manage while holding down two jobs and attending her star quarter-back brother's games. Vietnamese Von is an A student, helps out in the family restaurant, and yearns after the freedom of American girls. In a carefully crafted series of events, the four experience gymnasts' typical troubles (except for injury, which happens only to a minor character): weight gain, fear, economic and academic pressures, pain, exhaustion, demanding coaches. There are enough performance details to satisfy fans, and even a glossary of terms for novices. Though the intent here of interpreting the sport and appealing to enthusiasts is evident, Hermann has drawn believable characters who learn from their experiences and from each other; readers will cheer each move and point as the gymnasts' persistence is rewarded.