Gold Medal Winter by Donna Freitas (January 7, 2014, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, for ages 10 to 14).
Source: ARC courtesy of the publisher
Synopsis (from the publisher): Go gold or go home! After years of early morning training and more jumps than she can count, Esperanza's dream of figure skating for the United States is coming true at last! But with the excitement of an Olympic slot comes new attention and big distractions.
Suddenly Espi can't go out with her friends, or even out her back door, without reporters and autograph-seekers following her every move. Her new teammates have a lot more international experience, and they let Espi know that they don't think she's ready. Hunter Wills, the men's figure skating champion, seems to be flirting with her, even as the press matches her up with Danny Morrison, the youngest — and maybe cutest — member of the U.S. hockey team.
In the midst of all this, Espi is trying to master an impossible secret jump that just might be her key to a medal. Can she focus enough to shut out the drama, find her edge over the competition, and make the Olympics as golden as her dreams?
Why I recommend it: A big plus here is the multicultural main character (Esperanza's mother is Dominican, and the name Esperanza means "hope" so there's plenty of talk about Espi being America's hope for Gold), plus her coach is Lucy Chen, and one of Espi's best friends is African-American, so multiculturalism abounds.
This is a breezy and enjoyable read, with plenty of tension and a lot of interesting inside information about the Olympics. I appreciated the quotes from famous skaters like Michelle Kwan and Katarina Witt. Tween girls will devour this not just for the skating and Espi's clash with the "mean girls" of Team USA, but also for the romance, which is squeaky clean. I found it a little hard to believe that a girl training hard for the Olympics would have time to even think about boys, but the author is a former teen athlete herself, having participated in competitive gymnastics for seven years.
She also, wisely perhaps, never mentions Sochi, Russia, only a seaside town nestled at the foot of snowy mountains. Politics aside, this means the book would still be appropriate for the next Winter Olympics in 2018 or anytime, really, for anyone interested in figure skating.
You might also enjoy: Gold Medal Summer by Donna Freitas (2012, Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic, for ages 10 to 14)
Readers, will you be watching the Winter Olympics in February? What's your favorite Olympic sport?