Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas
Current Mood: thirsty
Current Song: Ten Cents a Dance film score
Just in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics, the novel Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas puts the 13-year-old spotlight on Joey Jordan, a girl whose love for gymnastics knows no bounds. Even when she's simply cartwheeling on the beach, Joey is completely happy. She doesn't mind the long hours at the gym, and she has a positive attitude towards her successes and failures. She really wants to be the best she can be.
Joey's drive is admirable, especially considering the odds she's up against at home and in the gym. Her older sister, Julia, was a title-winning gymnast who retired at the age of 16. The better Julia got at the sport, the less she liked it, and she left after a sweet-and-sour combination: a National title and a horrible injury. Joey's parents are financially supportive but emotionally disconnected from the sport, not wanting Joey to go through everything Julia went through. It's not that they are cold or unfeeling, but rather that they are afraid Joey will get hurt physically and emotionally. (Keep an eye out for the scene in which Joey's father is more willing to discuss boys with his daughter than her career, and the very truthful scene between Joey and her mom, which might make moms reading the book tear up a little!) Joey's best friend, Alex, is also a great gymnast but doesn't want to do it any longer, leaving Joey to stand on her own against some very competitive other girls.
When her main coach keeps giving her routines with tumbling passes and moves that don't suit Joey's strengths, another coach, Maureen, steps up and, along with Julia, creates a routine that makes Joey really shine. (If this were a movie, their sessions at the gym would make an awesome training montage!)
Author Donna Freitas was a competitive gymnast, and you can tell. She details gymnastics moves, not only to inform the readers, but also to convey whether they are difficult or easy for Joey. Sections of the book are separated by quotes from famous gymnasts, such as Nadia Comaneci and Dominique Dawes. Endpapers illustrated by Kyle T. Webster feature diagrams of handsprings, walkovers, and more.
I especially liked the fact that, very early on, our first-person narrator Joey makes a distinction between gymnasts who are technically amazing and artistically awesome. That's not to say that gymnasts can't be both, because they certainly can be! It's just that, for Joey, she has showmanship and sparkle out there, and she can smile her face off at competitions, but she still wishes she were as technically strong as her sister.
As she attempts to balance her practices and meets with her first crush, her friends, and her family, Joey never fails to stay true herself. It's wonderful to see such a self-motivated young protagonist. She has a good heart, and she's a great athlete, but she's never cocky. She's focused and determined. Readers will be cheering her on from the first page until the very last page. Go get 'em, Joey!
So I go it alone. Mostly. - Page 18
Whenever parents start referring to themselves in the third person, it's always best to get out quickly. - Page 95
Everything in life is better with music playing in the background. - Page 106
Joey's fantastic speeches to her mom (page 141) and her coach (page 207)
Interview: Donna Freitas (2010)
Interview: Donna Freitas (2012)
Review: This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
Review: The Tenderness of Thieves by Donna Freitas
Booklist: Hey There, Sports Fan