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Review of Spinning

Spinning
by Tillie Walden; illus. by the author
High School    First Second/Roaring Brook    396 pp.
9/17    978-1-62672-772-4    $22.99
Paper ed.  978-1-62672-940-7    $17.99

In a graphic memoir, former competitive figure skater and synchronized skater Walden looks back at her twelve years growing up in the world of competitive sports. The shadowy, cool bluish-purples of most of the pencil drawings reflect young Tillie’s mood for much of the narrative: although she’s committed to her skating, it rarely brings her joy. Meanwhile, she’s being bullied; her family relationships are strained; she feels the need to hide her homosexuality; she struggles academically; and she is sexually assaulted by her SAT tutor. The skating world serves mainly as a well-realized backdrop for a story about holding secrets in and going against expectations. Walden, whose growing interest in art is a recurring theme throughout her memoir, knows when to let this book’s art or text be spare and when to interrupt the purple sleepiness with a pop of golden yellow; the occasional incompletely drawn figures are clearly deliberate, whether to protect her own memory or someone else’s anonymity. She sometimes only hints at her motivations, giving the impression that, like many adolescents, she’s not fully sure what they are. The result is much more layered than the “tell-all about the seedy world of glittering young ice skaters” that, according to the author’s note, Walden (now only a few years removed from the events) originally intended to create.

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College.

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