A light, mostly engaging middle-grade sports novel focused on the competitive world of synchronized swimming.
Katie Phillips is a pretty normal 13-year-old. She’s got great friends, a budding interest in boys, a jerk for an older brother, and overbearing parents that at least mean well—sometimes anyway. She also happens to be crazy about the unfairly maligned sport of synchronized swimming. Katie’s greatest desire is to be an Olympic synchronized swimmer, and she knows the first step to getting there is to make Nationals in her age group. Her parents, however, have other ideas about how she should be spending her time. Her father is relentless in pushing his children to pursue competitive race swimming, believing that an athletic scholarship is the only way they’ll be able to afford college. Katie increasingly feels the pressure as she tries to compete as a race swimmer, keep up in school, and pursue her dream. As obstacles begin to mount—injuries, bad grades, conflicting swim meets—she wonders if she’ll get a chance to show the world how good she is at synchronized swimming or if she’ll be forced to give up the thing she loves the most. Though his work is weighed down by some middle-of-the-road characterization and a tendency to repeat himself, debut novelist Firschein succeeds on some important fronts. Katie is a charming and relatable protagonist—even if she, like many other characters, is a little too good—and the narrative, following a familiar sports-story template, has good momentum. A few other issues—problems solving themselves and an extraneous steroid subplot—hold the book back, but the target audience of teenage swimmers is likely to find the novel a fun read.
Though suffering from some craft problems, the novel stays afloat thanks to a winning protagonist and good pacing.