The Summer Olympics in Rio opens up tomorrow night! Four years goes by so fast! For those of us at home watching all the winning moments happen who might have a bit of free time to learn more about Olympians, Olympic sports and what it takes to compete at the highest level in the world, I have a book recommendation for you!
The book I think you should read to get you excited for Rio is Finding Our Balance by Lauren Hopkins.
This book is the first in a three part tale that details the journey of a young gymnast who is trying to make the US Olympic team. The journeys of other gymnasts are also highlighted in this first book.
When 15-year-old newcomer Amalia Blanchard makes a splash with her beam routine in front of the entire U.S. national team, veterans like Ruby Spencer—whose 2012 Olympic dreams were dashed due to an injury just a month before the Games—and Emerson Bedford—a two-time world champion set to run the show in Rio—start to take notice. With preliminary competitions to get through before the team trials, all three have something to prove, as Emerson struggles to maintain her queen bee status, Ruby tries to show everyone she is still a contender, and Amalia hopes she has what it takes to stand out in a talented field. Finding Our Balance follows these extraordinary teenage girls through heartbreak, triumph, and everything in between as their lifetime of training comes down to a single summer that will change their lives forever.
Now I gave this book a fairly lukewarm reception in my review, but that is coming from someone that know more then your average amount about the sport and the US Olympic process. For those that know less about the sport but want to know more, this is the perfect book for you!
First off, the author actually knows her stuff. She might not have participated in gymnastics as an athlete, but she has researched the sport so intensely over the past few years and learned so much that NBC actually hired her to help with Olympic coverage! That means the moves you learn about and the scoring actually makes sense in the real world of gymnastics and will translate well to what you will see during Olympic coverage.
Secondly, the characters are interesting and diverse in their personalities, abilities and backgrounds. In a sport that you have to strive for perfection at every turn no one character is without her flaws which I appreciate. Even elite level athletes have areas they need to work on and this book shows that.
But what if I’m not interested in gymnastics? you say.
Well I hope you will still give this book a chance to see what the sport is all about as it may surprise you, but even if gymnastics is not your thing, I think readers would be interested in knowing more about the commitment and sacrifices it takes to become an Olympian.
But you just spoiled the ending for me! Obviously the main character becomes and Olympian! Why should I read this! you cry.
Actually, this first instalment stops before the Olympic team is even named, so only the author herself (and likely her editors) know whether Amalia and the rest make it onto the team. Even then there is always the chance of injury prevent her from actually competing at the Olympics! So I don’t think I spoiled anything for you and there is much excitement to come.
Hesitant about starting the first in a series of three as the rest are not out yet?
Don’t be! The second book is supposed to be released shortly (by the end of the month, I believe) with the third hopefully being out sometime next year.
Happy Olympics everyone!
Lauren Hopkins can be found over at The Gymternet which she has been running for years, if you want to find out more about the sport of Gymnastics