Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on June 7th 2016
Source:Copy provided by publisher for review
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.
A little disclaimer: I know nothing about the actual landscape of gymnastics. So I can’t attest to the accuracy, or any such beast. Tumbling takes place during the two days of the Olympic trials. There are twelve girls vying for one of five spots on the team (there are a couple alternates too, but if you’re anything like me, those don’t count- and they sure didn’t count to these athletes). The story is told via five of these girls, all of whom are at different stages in their careers, have different goals and experiences, etc.
The book has a lot of positives, so I am starting with those, naturally.
- Women. In. Sports. That’s a win right off the bat. Each of these women were elite, hard working gymnasts and they had goals and competitive streaks that weren’t just tolerated, but embraced- coveted, even. I loved reading about them competing, and feeling their emotions as their dreams were being realized or fading away.
- Gymnastics is fascinating! So, I am going to date myself here for a minute, and tell you about one of my all-time favorite Olympic moments. It was 1996, and well…. here it is:
Kerri Strug doing that vault with ONE WORKING LEG, nailing it, winning the damn thing for the US, basically. You couldn’t have written a better ending. Anyway, I became pretty enamored with Kerri, and gymnastics in general for awhile after that. This book definitely features a lot of the good and bad sides of gymnastics. It’s a harsh sport (I mean, do you see Kerri, above? Holy crap, and also, ouch.) It takes a toll on the body and the psyche; Tumbling really does a great job of exploring that.
- There was a lot of focus on relationships. There are family relationships explored as well as friendships and romantic relationships. I feel like there was a pretty good balance, no one type of relationship took center stage. That made a lot of sense to me, since these girls were at such different life stages.
- There are a lot of accurate depictions about sports-related things in general. You don’t have to be a gymnast to understand these; I’m not even sure you have to be an athlete for all of them.
♦In the book, some of the characters have to face that they’re simply out of time in their careers- it’s an incredibly hard pill to swallow. I loved the honest reflection about that, and that the girls were so aware of it. Because it is something that is always in your head as an athlete, and no amount of rumination prepares you for it.
♦There was also a focus on coaching, and while there were some real assholes, there were also some shining examples of how coaches should be. Yes, there was a light shone on the darker side, but there was also an emphasis on the positive.
♦Since much of the book is spent inside the girls’ minds as they prepare to compete, we get lots of insight about their thought processes- both in the meet and out.
I really only had a few issues with the book, overall.
- First, it’s kind of long. Granted, 432 pages isn’t ridiculous or anything, but it was overwhelming at the start when I realized that all of those pages would take place in the span of a two day gymnastics meet. It wasn’t a slow book, so that was good, but it is spent mostly in the girls’ heads as they compete in the meet, so it’s worth taking into consideration.
- I kind of wanted a little more from the ending. Obviously I can’t say much about that. It wasn’t bad, I just wished for a little more.
- The girls were definitely intense, and that brought a lot of drama to the table, which wasn’t really surprising to me, nor was it inaccurate. There were a few instances where I think the miscommunication trope was a little overused, but that’s also kind of a personal thing since that has always bugged me a bit in books.
Bottom Line: This is a very solid book with five very distinct POVs, which is kind of a rare feat. If you are interested at all in gymnastics, Tumbling is a must. If you are just looking for a good contemporary about athletes, it’s also a great choice. Definitely glad I read it, and it’s a perfect read for this Olympic season!