Review: Tumbling by Caela Carter

Review: Tumbling by Caela Carter Tumbling by Caela Carter
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers on June 7th 2016
Pages: 432
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!

Let’s talk gymnastics! Are you a fan? Have you ever been a gymnast? 

Posted August 5, 2016 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Review / 47 Comments

47 responses to “Review: Tumbling by Caela Carter

  1. Oooh, I have never read a book about gymnasts! Well, except for like all those epic fantasy people who somehow manage to do amazing gymnastics just, like, to escape death or whatnot. Which seems fair. Life in fantasy worlds is tough. BUT ANYWAY I DIGRESS. I do have this one on my goodreads TBR but honestly it’s the 5 POVs that scare me.😳 I always get confused and vaguely befuddled at that many narrators. SO YEAH. I mean, I’ll probably try it one day but maybe not imminently.

    ALSO THAT GIF WAS LIKE WOAH WOW HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE. I can’t even go up stairs without tripping.

    • Bwhahaha. Right there is why I would die in a fantasy world- I am an uncoordinated mess. So, death.

      The 5 POVs weren’t bad! They’re SUPER different, honestly, and it’s apparent pretty quickly. There’s also a handy roster in the front of the book which is PERFECT for when I had a question and needed to flip back! (Plus it’s CUTE because it is a roster! Hahhah, the little things amuse me.)

      DUDE- she had ONE LEG basically- and if she hadn’t competed, the US would not have won the gold. It was crazy! It was also like, when you were an infant, which makes me (and probably Kerri Strug, too) feel extra old.

  2. Considering my daughter’s a gymnast, I ought to read this! Even at the level my daughter’s at (which is pretty low) it amazes me how seriously people take the sport and how much work goes into it. Danielle was only a level 4 and she was already practicing a minimum of 12 hours a week – and our gym isn’t nearly as crazy as other gyms. One of her teammates moved over the summer and told Danielle that her new gym would have her practicing five hours a day five days a week over the summer! I just can’t see putting that much time into something unless you’re seriously thinking you might be able to reach Olympic levels – it becomes your whole life! Anyway, I’m really curious to read this book now.

    • Wow. That is like a full time job! How old is your daughter? I mean, I did that in high school, but again, high school, so I feel like it’s different when you can make that choice for yourself. (I don’t mean in the case of Danielle- I mean the 25 hour a week one! Isn’t that like, more than someone under 18 can legally WORK? Damn.) I am curious as to how it compares to someone who has some real inside knowledge, you’ll have to let me know!

  3. Sounds interesting. I was a gymnast for four years and I absolutely loved it with my entire being. I’m not sure I would enjoy this book because drama (ugh!) and it seems really long for the type of book it is. Thanks for the great review!

  4. I saw this on Bloglovin and I’m all geeked about the Olympics so yeah. Such an intense sport- I like that this seems to expore that angle of how you can age out of certain capabilities even if you’re mentally there, it’s so competitive and intense if you miss your window then physically you’re past the point. That mus be tough for the athletes. I always feel bad for the athletes (I follow track and field more) who have been to an Olympics or two and then fail to qualify- they’re just not at that prime anymore. Must be hard.

    And five distinct POV’s, done well. that’s a feat too! Glad this was good- looks like a great read for the Olympics.

    That Kerri strug moment BTW- yeah. Amazing.

    • Yeah, I think that has to be the hardest too- to still WANT to do it, but being physically unable. Though, I was watching the Olympics earlier tonight, and there was a 41 year old gymnast from… shit, I can’t remember where she was from! I have to google her. Uzbekistan. So anyway, she is 41, and she has a 16 year old son, and is on her SEVENTH Olympic games which is just like… #goals. Actual life goals. She puts us ALL to shame, basically!

      And dude, the Kerri Strug thing STILL gives me chills!

  5. Yes! I didn’t realize that you were reading this book! We could have talked about it!

    I really enjoyed this book, but I will admit that it was a bit overwhelming. I didn’t really see the “five distinct voices” that the author mentioned in the acknowledgements, but I think that’s because it was third person. If she would have actually had each character narrate their experiences, it would have been better for me.

    Other than that, I loved it. There was a whole lot of drama, and I just loved seeing how empowering and powerful these young ladies were.

    • I wish I had known too, would’ve been fun to chat about it! I actually did feel like they were pretty distinct- granted it took me a few chapters to really get who was who, but once I did, I thought they all had different enough stories and personalities that it worked. But I DO agree that 1st person would have worked better, now that you mention it 😂

  6. I love watching gymnastics, but I could never be able to do it because of balance issues. I have mild cerebral palsy which affects my balance and I sometimes have leg pain.

  7. I really want to pick up this book just because of the gymnastics aspect of it…the bad side of the book doesn’t even sound that bad, so that’s exciting. A new book added to my TBR 🙂 Great review, Shannon!!

  8. This one sounds really good. Thanks for sharing a detailed review, Shannon. I’ve always been fascinated by gymnastics, and enjoy watching them during the Olympics, so I’ll definitely look this one up next book shopping spree. Also, wow! Five POV’s!? That does sound like quite a feat! Glad it works well here.

  9. I love this review. I have this book on my TBR because I love gymnastics and ice skating. Those are the things I watch in the Olympics, the only things really. Any book involving gymnastics? Sign me up I am totally all over it. This sounds like a whole lot of confusion as I keep track of characters but it does sound interesting (if a bit long).

  10. I used to be a gymnast! Or not really. I mean, I was only in a gymnastics team for a little over 6 months. The coach wasn’t so devoted. Or he was, it’s just it was only him for all the girls from ages 3 to 18. So it was difficult to do things and learn more of the complex stuff. I’m so excited for this book. This book being so long could lead to me not enjoying it but we’ll see. Great review!

  11. I am not a gymnast myself but I always watch gymnastics competitions (Olympics etc). Haha. They are all so pretty! <3 So I might try to read this book too despite having multiple POVs, whoops!

  12. This looks like a good book. I love the idea of seeing what it might be like for these girls to compete. I love gymnastics. I remember watching the last Olympics and being so in awe of them all, I can’t wait for those events this year. Great review, I kinda want to read this now.

  13. I was just a little kid in 1996, but that’s actually my favorite Olympic moment too, even though I wasn’t watching when it originally happened lol. To be honest though, from the other reviews I’ve read, I’m under the impression that this book is way more focused on drama than actual gymnastics. And as a former gymnast, I’m 99% certain I would just be irritated if I read it lol.

    • I was… well fine, I was a freshman in high school when that stuff went down in 1996- but I had literally JUST STARTED. In fact, I remember I was really scared about starting at a new school, so I just DEVOURED the Olympics! And I think it is so awesome that you were a gymnast! The drama IS big, don’t get me wrong, but I think the sport is just as big? I mean, these girls take it VERY seriously for sure.

  14. Well, this one is certainly timely. And one I will definitely pick up. I loved women’s gymnastics since I was a little girl. I remember being a little girl and watching Nadia Comaneci score perfect 10’s at the 1976 Olympics. To this day, as much as I enjoy watching the Olympic games, it’s really the gymnastics that I tune in for. Tumbling does sound a little lengthy for a novel spanning two days, and I’m a little hesitant about the miscommunication trope (my least fave) but still… there’s more than enough to really pull me in. I’ll be all over this one soon!

  15. What a great book to review during the Olympics! I would have to say that gymnastics is one of my favorite sports to watch, but I really don’t know anything about it. But wow I can’t believe this book covers only 2 days. That has got to be super slow paced. As much as I love gymnastics, I think I will stick to watching in on the olympics. I don’t think I could read about all the drama (which probably doesn’t happen in real life, or I HOPE it doesn’t. Because the US team is on point this year and they all act like one big family and sure they already made it to the olympics but still)

    • Val you are a SUPER Tumblr. You really are. You can tumble in the pool too, remember. I think you would not really like this book, tbh. I can see you hoping that one of them stabs the other or something, and sorry Val, it is not that kind of book. Womp womp.

  16. This book definitely seems like a perfect read for the Olympic season! It definitely seems like it addresses some important issues when it comes to coaching, competitiveness and athleticism. You know in primary school we actually had to do a few basic gymnastics classes. It was fun but I’m totally unco lol

  17. I’m a gymnast myself, so I was super excited about this one. I felt a bit disappointed because it was more about the drama than the actual gymnastics, but I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Aww I’m sorry to hear that! I am curious, IS there such drama? I mean, I can imagine it’s different in such an intense situation like the Olympic trials, but is that an actual “thing”, or just a myth? I have always wondered! And thanks so much 😀

  18. This is a really thoughtful review!Given the olympics are in full swing, there’s so much out there about what athletes go through and it is INTENSE to say the least. And some of them won’t make it, or make it and lose and are crushed. I like that this goes into that too. I can’t imagine having to face that I am too old to do something I have loved and worked towards for years.

    • Aw thanks!! I agree, it IS intense- and it’s sad that so many people’s dreams do get crushed along the way. A guy I swam with went in like, 2004 I think to trials, and he came in like, 51st, and wasn’t even CLOSE to last- which goes to show how few dreams are actually realized. I loved that this showed both sides of it too!

  19. I NEED to read this one! I am absolutely obsessed with women’s gymnastics (not that I have any personal experience with it). And what better time to read this book than during the Summer Olympic games when Team USA is absolutely dominating!

  20. Aaahh, so glad you loved this!! It’s been on my wishlist forever, but omg 400 pages. Given, it’s multi-POV. I have a love-hate relationship with multi-POVs, but obviously excited for this because the Olympics are CURRENTLY HAPPENING. 😀

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