Friday, January 10, 2014

Gold Medal Winter by Donna Freitas

Where have you been all my life, beautiful book?

It's not amazing literature. It's not the World's Greatest Plot. It's not award-winning or deathless prose. It will probably never be on a school list and is unlikely to Change Your Life. But this is the book that hits everything girls have been asking me for over the past five years and I am IN LOVE.

Esperanza, Espi for short, never dreamed that her love of skating would come to this point. Self-taught, and then with the support of her mom, coach, local businesses, and friends she's made it to the US championships and now...the Olympics! It's exciting and frightening and challenging and unbelievable, but she has confidence in herself, her coach and her family and friends are behind her, and there's some support from an unexpected quarter as well...or is there? As Espi encounters drama, bad choices, and starts losing her confidence, will she make it to the Olympics after all, or will she lose sight of what's most important?

I'm just going to check off all the things I've wanted in a book and that this book hits so perfectly

  • A girl playing a sport with plenty of detail and action (I get a LOT of requests for "sports books with girls")
  • A popular, eye-catching sport (Figure-skating probably comes in second to gymnastics for sports most-often-requested)
  • Light romance - nothing graphic or inappropriate, but a few mild kissing scenes, lots of fuzzy feelings and a little hand-holding. Perfect for middle grade girls who want something a little romantic, and even teaches some gentle lessons about thinking through relationships and not making bad choices.
  • A genuine Latina character whose heritage and family are seamlessly woven into the story without the Main Point being Culture
Of course, there's also the perennial popular topics of mean girls, True Friendship, and an exciting climax to round things off. Sure, some of it's probably wish-fulfillment, but that's not the point. The point is that girls who like sports should have books that feature girls playing sports. Latinas should have a wide range of books about Latinas - not just historical fiction and books about their culture, but contemporary, light, fun stories featuring Latina girls who have everyday worries, romantic entanglements, and friendship drama.

Verdict: Great literature? No. But it is reasonably well-written, well-researched, and will fly off your shelves. Buy extra copies, because you will want to hand this to every girl who loves figure-skating, who wants books about girls in sports, and to your Latina readers who would love to see a girl like themselves finally take center stage. The publisher suggests age 10-14, but I have no problem putting this in my juvenile section and recommending it to middle grade, roughly 8-12.

ISBN: 9780545644730; Published January 2014 by Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library (there's a gymnastics one too, Gold Medal Summer - I purchased that as well)

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