Welcome to SPORTY GIRL BOOKS. At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about any sport that interests them. We look forward to the day when the words, "You play like a girl," is the biggest compliment anyone can receive.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sporty Girl Book Review: The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson

Thanks to NetGalley for the eGalley of THE FLIP SIDE.

In THE FLIP SIDE by Shawn Johnson, main character Charlie Ryland's Olympic gymnastic dreams are clear but Charlotte Ryland, Charlie's public school persona isn't quite as sure. After all, public school comes with grades, student government, boys, and prom--all of which are distractions as Charlie approaches her Olympic qualifying competition.

And there's that other small issue--no one at school has figured out that Charlotte and Charlie are the same person. It's this secret that builds tension through the novel and keeps the reader wondering. What will happen when her best friend Zoe, and the other students finds out about Charlotte's secret double life?

Shawn Johnson, with A.L. Sonnichsen, give us a wonderful inside view of how athletes struggle to separate the public and private parts of their life. If you look at Shawn Johnson's YouTube channel or other social media, it seems that there is little divide. However, this books reminds us that we never really know the people we see on TV. Celebrity necessitates dual personalities in order to stay sane, or in order to "embrace the crazy," as Charlie says in the book. It is during these inside peeks at the challenges elite athletics face that the reader hears Charlie's most authentic voice. We get to witness how many sacrifices young athletes make to compete at the Olympic level and how when things get difficult, it's fellow athletes they turn to for support. "If you can't fall apart with us," Gwen (her gymnastics best friend) says, "where can you fall apart?" (p. 252)

There were a few times when I was pulled from the story by a voice that felt too adult for Charlie. During those lapses, I could make a case that she had to grow up quickly and had media training, but I didn't think that the formal construction of some of her speech with friends or with other adults was authentic. 

I also wondered how it was that her school best friend, Zoe, never ever went to her house and saw the walls of medals and gymnastics pictures. Even the authors riff that her dual identity disguise, glasses and a different hair style, was lame in a Clark Kent/Superman way.

Still, the depiction of a close-knit family that supports Charlie's lofty goals and makes sacrifices right along with her seemed spot on.

While I had a few craft concerns, the book kept me turning pages. Like an NBC Olympics human interest story, THE FLIP SIDE has the athlete-overcoming-adversity plot line that a reader can count on.

For other great gymnastics titles, see yesterday's post Happy Book Birthday's: June is Coming Up Gymnastics.

For an interview with Shawn Johnson with Justine Magazine click here.

Read an excerpt here

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