I write this on a cold evening in March when my internet has mysteriously died again, sigh, and I am on a review splurge. So.
Claire Boucher loves to ice skate. She skates on the pond by her family’s maple farm, she teaches smaller children in their skating club, and she’s been working for months on a solo routine for the Maple Show with her warm and beloved coach. She loves their maple farm, her best friend Natalie who is a keeps bees, and math. Then Groshev, a famous skating coach, shows up at the Maple Show and offers her a scholarship to train at Lake Placid. Claire isn’t sure how she feels about this. Her older cousin, Charlotte, is in training to be a professional skater and she knows it’s hard. She’s not sure she wants to give up so much. But everyone thinks it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, everyone is making sacrifices so she can go, so…she does.
She finds out it’s harder – and more painful - than she had expected. She barely has time for her schoolwork, let alone her friends and her family. Groshev isn’t warm and understanding like her old coach, and the competition is fierce. Worst of all, some of the other girls will do anything to discourage her, from mean whispers to vandalism. Is it worth it? Does Claire really want to be a professional ice skater? If she does, does she have what it takes?
Messner does an excellent job not only portraying the competition, ambition, and squabbles in an extremely competitive sport but also the real characters of the people involved. She doesn’t sugarcoat the emotional and physical hardships that accompany this competitive sport, but she also writes enthusiastically and beautifully about the people who enjoy it and the beauty of figure skating. Claire is a wonderful character, realistically excited and nervous about trying something new and difficult, confused and hurt as she tries to fit into another world, and finally triumphant as she stands up for herself and makes her own decisions. There is a little bit of innocent romance as she makes friends with a boy in her skating group, but the main focus of the story is on Claire and her trials and triumphs.
Verdict: Highly recommended. I think it’s mainly going to appeal to girls, since so much of the story is focused on Claire and her female friends and enemies, but it will definitely appeal to any middle grade or young teen girl who likes realistic stories, whether or not she’s into skating or other sports. I would really like to buy this one but I don’t think I can fit it into my budget; I’ve already bought a lot of “girl” realistic fiction this year. However, I will crunch a few more numbers and we’ll see…
[Revisited: This title is still in print and still popular in my library. I don't know that I've ever gotten any boys to read it, but girls like the mild romance and the ice skating aspect. The cover hasn't dated much and it's available in both hardcover, paperback, and prebound]
ISBN: 9780802720818; Published December 7, 2010 by Walker Childrens; Borrowed from another library; Purchased for the library