For most of us, the world of elite sports is something that we hear about in the news. It is also a world where we watch in awe, particularly when major events such as World or Olympic championships occur. With the Olympics taking place in Paris this summer millions of people around the world will be watching the events and some of the most popular will be the gymnastics. The author of this book, Eloise Smith is a former world class fencer and she wrote about this world in her first book “Sister to a Star”. Her new book has a slight change in direction, as she enters the world of young gymnasts.
The central character of this story is a young 12 year old called Pearl, who is fanatical about her gymnastics and is determined to follow her late mother’s dream and make it to the Great Britain team. When she and her best friend Ryan are chosen to attend an elite training centre called ‘Leaping Spires’, they are thrilled and understand that it will require all of their grit an determination to succeed. However, what neither of them expects, is discovering that there are dangers to be faced and not just from their exercises. The centre seems to be suffering from more than the average number of injuries, so that Pearl begins to suspect that some form of sabotage is at play. The problem is, who can she trust and who is carrying out the sabotage?
This is a fantastic story that looks at a world which most of us know very little about. However we have seen instances over the last few years where trainers and coaches have been accused of bullying, harassing and even worse. The author has really brought the whole sport alive for us and I am sure that any young gymnast will be absolutely enthralled by the plot, characters and the information about the various types of equipment and the moves associated with them. However, there are several really important themes that are brought into focus in this story. The first is the sense of loss that Pearl feel at the death of her mother, who was also her trainer; this leads to her total fixation on succeeding, but in doing so , she misses the fact that others are also suffering from this loss. Perhaps the most chilling element of the story is the way that the trainers expect the gymnasts to push themselves beyond what is healthy or wise and to put their sport before family, friends and normal life. We have to remember that Pearl is just a 12 year old girl who has suffered a great loss and is clinging on to the one certainty in her life. However, she is confused by what she sees and hears and even begins to mistrust her greatest friends, so I raced through the book with my fingers crossed that all would be well.
What a real cliff-hanger of a story which really moves along at a tremendous pace. This is helped by the fact that the chapters are very short and you think “one more chapter” before going to bed. The characters are fantastic and the reader becomes truly involved in what is going on. The fact that we are now in an Olympic year will only add to the enthusiasm for this story and I consider it as one of my 5 star choices for this year.
(from her website
In my former lives I’ve been an Olympian, triple Commonwealth fencing gold medallist, Oxford English graduate and award-winning executive creative director in advertising. Now I’m a children’s author, following my wildest dream of all . . .
My first book draws on my experiences in fencing and film sets: Sister To A Star is a thrilling mystery about warring twins in a swash-buckling Hollywood movie. My second book uses my understanding of high-level sport: Winner Takes Gold is a gripping adventure about sabotage on an elite gymnastics camp.
In my spare time I relax by skiing, climbing, running and yoga. All while raising two boys who bring me more joy than all my dreams put together.