Author: Shawn Johnson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published Date: June 7th 2016
Genre: Contemporary, YA, Realistic Fiction, Gymnastics, Olympics
My Rating: ★ ★ ★.5
Charlie Ryland has a secret.
She may seem like your average high school sophomore—but she’s just really good at pretending.
Because outside of school Charlie spends all her waking hours training to become one of the best gymnasts in the world. And it’s not easy flying under the radar when you’re aiming for Olympic gold…especially when an irresistible guy comes along and threatens to throw your whole world off balance.
"I don't stand for stalling, not in myself. Fear is one thing. Everyone's allowed to have fear. But stalling means I'm letting fear win."
When I first heard that Shawn Johnson was going to be writing a YA book I was really excited, back in 2008 she was my favorite gymnast on the Olympic team. Since then I have follow gymnastics more closely and continue to love gymnastics. But back to talking about the book. I did have my reservations, because I have read her biography as well, which was geared towards younger girls it seemed at times, so I was expecting that from this book as well, and it was.
Charlie Ryland is a 15 year old high schooler, who just so happens to also be a well-known Olympic gymnastics hopeful. She keeps her gymnastics life so separate from her school life though that she has to tell quite a few lies to her school best friend who she hardly sees outside of school and some Saturday nights. Her gymnastics career though is about to take off and that means that her two lives are about to collide, while she knows it’s going to happen, she doesn’t want it to and keeps telling the lies until it’s too late and everyone knows her secret.
"What my heart wants is easy. It wants an Olympic gold medal. It's my brain that confuses things."
Things really start to get confusing for Charlie though when a guy who is also an athlete starts getting close to her, making her not focus as much on gymnastics which ends up almost costing her everything.
This is when I started to get annoyed with Charlie though. Here’s this guy who is also an elite athlete who knows what it’s like to have to sacrifice things and she just keeps lying to him about who she really is as well. When he is quite possibly the only school friend she has that will understand why she kept it a secret and why she wanted to. The amount of times I just wanted her to tell him or at least give him hints about it were too many to count.
When Charlie ends up getting hurt and almost losing the thing she’s worked so hard for, I got even more annoyed with her because really her whole family had made sacrifices for her to have this Olympic dream and here she was weeks from trial possibly losing it all just because of some guy.
"My life is different from what it might have been, but you can't hold on to bad decisions. Let it all go, Charlie. Focus on the now. Not the past, not the future. Just the now."
Finally one of her coaches is able to get through to her to just focus on gymnastics again and then deal with a guy after the Olympics. She starts thinking straight again even though her whole school life has fallen apart.
While I did still enjoy this book, I could tell that it was meant for younger gymnasts who are Olympic hopefuls or just love gymnastic s. I was still able to enjoy the book, but at times I did get a little annoyed with the main character, but then I would just remind myself that this was geared towards the younger YA instead of the older YA like most books I read tend to be. Charlie is most likely a relatable character for young gymnasts she’s worked so hard for so long for a shot at a 5 person team where this is potentially the only chance she will ever have to make it. She is mentally tough and strong and wants to have some sort of normal life, while also still playing the sport she loves that demands almost all of her time in order to become elite at it. The main reason I didn’t like this book as much as I was hoping to was because it focuses more on her personal/school life then it does her gymnastics life.
Overall I would say this is a good book for young readers but if you’re hoping for a story about gymnastics this isn’t it. It’s more of a story about a girl who also just happens to be a gymnast.