Review: Tumbling by Caela Carter

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Tumbling by Caela CarterTumbling by Caela Carter
Published by Viking Juvenile on June 7, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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Five gymnasts. One goal.

Grace lives and breathes gymnastics—but no matter how hard she pushes herself, she can never be perfect enough.

Leigh, Grace’s best friend, has it all: a gymnastics career, a normal high-school life…and a secret that could ruin everything.

Camille wants to please her mom, wants to please her boyfriend, and most of all, wants to walk away.

Wilhelmina was denied her Olympic dream four years ago, and she won’t let anything stop her again. No matter what.

Monica is terrified. Nobody believes in her—and why should they?

By the end of the two days of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, some of these girls will be stars. Some will be going home with nothing. And all will have their lives changed forever.

I feel like I’ve been starting half my reviews lately with “yay, I finally got this off of my judgey shelf of blogger shame and read it!” which I’m going to do again here. Tumbling came out in June, and I’ve finally gotten to it. I don’t know about you guys, but I find it so hard to deal with finished review copies because they show up like one week before, and they just do not fit in my meticulously planned schedule. Oh well. Tumbling delivered a brilliant routine with barely a wobble.

When it comes to sports books, they tend to fall into two basic camps. Either they’re about the sport in a realistic way, or they use the sport as a backdrop for melodrama and intensity, because athletes tend to be attractive. It’s the difference between, like, seeing an actual ballet and watching Dance Academy. Tumbling falls on the serious end of the spectrum. Dramatic things do happen, but they’re not overdone, and they’re realistic to the dangers of the sport.

Just watching the Olympics every four years, it’s obvious how incredibly difficult and dangerous gymnastics is, but I still didn’t really get how freaking much so until I read Tumbling. There’s a lot in here about training and how the rules work (or don’t) and it really drives home in a real way the fact that gymnastics, as done now, fucking destroys the girls. I mean, the nineteen and twenty year-old gymnasts are “old” and are taking their last shot at achieving Olympic dreams.

Tumbling follows five of the 12 girls competing in the Olympic trials one year, and essentially takes on how corrupt everything is. The central conflict lies in Katja Minkovski, likely a stand in for Marta Karolyi, attempting to keep control over the world of gymnastics. One gymnast, Wilhelmina, who was four days to young to compete in the prior Olympic trials, had one last chance to make her Olympic dream come true. She trained in a safer way than Katja’s brutal camps and has surprised Katja with her all-around skills, having worked as a vaulter the past four years. Mina’s attempt to make the Olympics as a powerfully built gymnast who didn’t follow Katja’s rules takes center stage.

Grace and Leigh are girls who have done everything Katja’s way, and they’re both almost shoo-ins for the Olympic team. Leigh struggles with the way the competitiveness of gymnastics has turned her into a mean girl. Grace meanwhile doesn’t mind being a bitchy gymnastics girl, because she would do anything to succeed, including not eat, so she can remain thin as a reed.

The last two girls are the oldest and youngest, Cammie and Monica, respectively. Comeback Cammie was chosen for the prior Olympic team but couldn’t go after her mom got in a fender bender that broke Cammie’s back, because Cammie was so underweight she wasn’t safe riding in the front seat. Now a specialist vaulter with a powerhouse body type, Cammie tries to figure out who she make happy: her mom with her Olympic dreams, her boyfriend who wants her to quit gymnastics entirely, or herself with dreams of college gymnastics.

Monica’s young and thin and idealistic. She’s never been one of the top contenders, and everyone was astounded she even made the Olympic Trials. Suddenly, though, she’s doing really well and becoming a potential contender, resulting in a lot of bullying coming her way from Leigh and Grace. Monica attempts to find confidence in herself in this toxic environment.

I became completely caught up in Tumbling somewhere around the second or third rotation. Each girl’s story is compelling, even those I didn’t bond with as much. Obviously Wilhelmina and Monica are easiest to like, because they’re kind and caring, but all of the girls are well-developed. Carter deals with a lot of heavy topics, but the book doesn’t get overly dark and heavy or hopeless. She does a really great job describing the gymnastics too, and I learned a bit more about some elements I hadn’t really understood. I didn’t get massive feelings, but I did get some, and the book was hard to put down.

If you love gymnastics, give Tumbling a shot. It wasn’t quite a perfect ten, but, hey, basically nothing is in gymnastics these days. This book is excellent; read it.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

One response to “Review: Tumbling by Caela Carter”

  1. Stormy says:

    I’m glad you liked this one! It’s one of my favorite underrated books of last year. I read it right before the Olympics, too, which definitely added to the experience. I’m not usually very into sports books, so I was surprised I liked this one so much.

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