Hey lovelies! It’s been WAY too long since I wrote a Theme Party Tuesday post, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things with this one. I thought that I’d also use this opportunity to keep myself accountable by listing the themes of upcoming TPT posts so I don’t have any excuse not to write them, and so you guys can contribute book suggestions for upcoming weeks or even make your own TPT posts if you want.
June 16: Sports in YA
June 23: Ocean-and-beach-themed YA
June 30: YA books set in Los Angeles (bc I’m heading off to USC in the fall and I gotta rep my brand!)
July 7: YA books with great worldbuilding (to celebrate the release of “Unravel the Dusk”!)
So that’s our next month worth of Theme Party Tuesday posts, and I can’t wait to share my recs with you guys (if you’d like to see a book included, please leave me a comment so I can check it out!). But you know what else I can’t wait to share with you?
GUYS, I’M A PUBLISHED AUTHOR NOW! My debut novel, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” came out June 2nd on Amazon and I’m so excited to share it with you guys! But more on that in the actual ranking itself 😉 (Why do you think I picked sports as the theme? Hmmm?)
So without further ado: my favorite sports fiction!
5. Best Team Dynamics: “We Are the Wildcats” by Siobhan Vivian
Sport Depicted: Field Hockey
What it’s About: a prestigious high school field hockey team realizes at a team sleepover that there are flaws in the system that they can no longer stand for.
Why You Should Read It: “We Are the Wildcats” was not my absolute favorite book, but I loved the team dynamics. It’s obvious that these girls love each other, and that’s sometimes really hard to find: when was the last time you read an ensemble-cast book where the characters actually got along? It’s probably been a while (I know it has for me). Their friendships were heartwarming even if the coach and everyone’s tendency to turn a blind eye to what a [redacted] he was made my blood boil.
Where I Read This: several places, but primarily while waiting at the train station to pick up my brother when he came home from college for Thanksgiving.
4. Fun Armchair-Travel: “Above All Else” by Dana Allison Levy
Sport Depicted: Mountaineering
What it’s About: best friends attempt to summit Mt. Everest. That’s it. That’s the book.
Why You Should Read It: okay, I’m not going to lie, I could not STAND this book, but I’ve read almost no sports fiction and in terms of the actual sports part? The way mountaineering was depicted here was fantastic. It’s so detailed, and it was fascinating to learn about what actually goes into a climb of this difficulty. If you want a good mountaineering story, look no further; if you want a good story, maybe not.
Where I Read This: on a ski trip to the mountains (ha!) at Christmas.
3. Can’t-Not-Recommend: “Every Reason We Shouldn’t” by Sara Fujimura
Sport Depicted: figure skating, roller derby, and speed skating
What it’s About: a former figure skater has to face the fact that her career could be ending, while the arrival of a talented young speed skater at her rink shakes things up.
Why You Should Read It: FIGURE SKATING!!! This is the first YA book I’ve come across that gets figure skating *right.* If you’re gonna write about a sport you’ve never actually tried, you have to do your homework; it’s clear that Sara Fujimura did hers. (I’m a former skater, so I’m super picky about this, and I actually though she was a former skater too by the way she wrote about it.) And besides that, it’s a really cute story that manages to be meaningful, too.
Where I Read This: while walking in my backyard to get steps in because the FitBit is a ruthless master.
2. Probably the Best Sports Book I’ve Ever Read: “Break the Fall” by Jennifer Iacopelli
Sport Depicted: gymnastics
What it’s About: the 2020 Olympic gymnastics team faces both the intense pressure of the Games and the reveal of a widespread and ongoing sexual abuse scandal.
Why You Should Read It: first of all, the actual gymnastics in this book is beautifully-depicted. I don’t do gymnastics, but I watched it rather obsessively (along with figure skating) growing up, and from what I know, “Break the Fall” is very accurate. The competition scenes are tense and exciting and I’m not ashamed to admit that I took a lot of inspiration from the way Iacopelli talks about competitions when I was writing my own novel (see below). And the side plot focusing on the scandal was both important and incredibly timely. It’s easy to see the parallels to real events, and they’re horrifying, but they tell a story that more people need to know if sports are to be made safer for future athletes. I applaud Iacopelli for taking that on.
Where I Read This: in bed, on a single night.
1. The One That I Wrote!: “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” by Sarah Salisbury
Sport Depicted: Figure Skating
What it’s About: I wrote a summary for this thing already, so I’m just going to paste that:
AUDIENCES LOVE A STRUGGLE.
Valerie Tran feels lost.
After years of work, Valerie’s name is beginning to be known in the figure skating community as one to watch. She’s got technical chops, consistency, and a sharp wit that’s made her a hit among fans – too bad she doesn’t want any of it. Valerie’s passion and motivation have waned, and as a new dream begins to eclipse the one she’s spent her entire lifetime striving for, she has to decide whether her career is worth spending her life doing something she doesn’t love.
AUDIENCES LOVE AN UNDERDOG.
Luisa Castillo is just getting started.
Switching countries to represent Mexico after years of skating for the U.S. team was a risky move, but if anyone can carry the hopes of a nation with absolutely no skating program to speak of – and do it without funding – Luisa is convinced it’s her. She’s got the best coaches and training mates she could ask for, and her new federation is all too eager to give her the international assignments she’s been dreaming of. Who cares if she might be pushing it a little too hard just months after knee surgery? She’s got this!
AUDIENCES LOVE A LEGACY.
Samanatha Zhang comes from skating royalty.
Sam’s got Olympic medalists in pairs skating on both sides of her family, and they expect her to follow in their footsteps. But that’s not all bad: the ice is the one place where she isn’t in the shadow of her tragic childhood. Skating is safety from herself, her past, and her thoughts. But with her star on the rise, new friendships forming, and a budding romance threatening to tear down the walls she’s spent a lifetime building, Sam might just have to face the music: she can’t hide from everything that haunts her off the ice forever.
Why You Should Read It: oh, boy, guys, this is gonna get long. So, I’m not sure how many of you know that I write, but I’ve been writing fiction since I was ten and it had been a sort of pipe dream to write a novel for a while. I finally did that when I was a junior in high school, but that book will never be published, so I started on another one.
Also important to note is that when I was younger, I was a competitive figure skater and a devotee of the sport in every possible way. I watched it every time I possibly could, catalogued facts about every skater in my brain, ran a video editing account and a blog about skating, and had an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport that I constantly tried to use to convince people on an online skating forum I was on that I was in my twenties even though I was actually thirteen. (It almost worked.) Then I quit and went totally cold turkey, until something possessed me to start writing “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”.
I really don’t know where I got the idea to write a story about skating; all I knew was that I wanted to use a trio of likable teenage girls to provide both an uplifting coming-of-age story and the realistic look at the skating world that I so rarely found in YA novels. But once I made that decision, the characters fell into place easily. Valerie was both the face of my own struggles while also being the person I wished I had been at her age; Luisa was based on my best friend in middle school, a skater who competes internationally for Mexico; and Samantha was a character I’d had in my brain since I was about twelve. And before I knew it, I was way too invested in these stories I already knew the endings to to stop writing. I was proud of the result and I decided to publish it. And a funny thing happened when I finally hit that “Save and Publish” button on Amazon.
People who’d been brushing off my writing as a pointless hobby were suddenly proud of me. Classmates who had told me they didn’t like my writing expressed interest in buying a copy. Instead of just being that weird writer girl, I was a published weird writer girl, and I’m not gonna lie, it feels good. I got to hold a physical copy of “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” yesterday and it was one of the most magical moments of my short life. So…this book kind of means the world to me. And I think y’all should check it out.
I promise, the skating is accurate. 😉
Where I Read This: at least fifteen times, because it’s my baby and I had to. But, fun fact: of the 65k-ish words of this story, I wrote the last 40k words in about five days. I have no idea why or how but it happened.