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The Flip Side

Review

The Flip Side

Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson scores another gold with her first young adult novel, THE FLIP SIDE. This fun, fresh story of a high school sophomore trying to qualify for the Olympics reveals the sacrifice as well as the exhilaration of competitive gymnastics. Author Shawn Johnson’s personal experiences as an elite gymnast lend sincerity to her main character, Charlie Ryland. As she pursues her dreams of winning a gold medal, the tenacious teen leads a double life --- keeping her passion a secret.
 
“Gold --- it’s what I’ve always wanted,” confesses Charlie, who narrates the motivational novel. The driven 15-year-old shares her rigorous workout regime, her favorite moves on the balance beam and her strict diet, which she logs into a fitness app. With aspirations of making Team USA, Charlie has relocated with her family from Indiana to Columbus, Ohio to train at Gold Star Gymnastics with the best gymnasts on the planet. As the up-and-coming athlete faces the pressures of preparing for the Olympic trials, readers get a glimpse of the competitive world of gymnastics --- a world that Charlie wants to keep separate from her schoolmates and friends.

“Shawn Johnson combines romance, friendship and tough competition in a story that inspires young readers to set the bar higher for themselves.”

Just as she finds her balance on a beam four inches wide, Charlie performs a “balancing act” outside of the gym. At Jefferson High, the sophomore is Charlotte with glasses and long blond hair, and at Gold Star (her “flip side”) she is Charlie in a leotard and ponytail. Even her BFF, Zoe, does not know her true identity. Keeping her two worlds separate reminded me of the old hit television series, “Hannah Montana.” Remember the teenage pop star living a double life? THE FLIP SIDE similarly explores a theme of staying grounded while achieving celebrity. Charlie wants her peers to like her for who she is and not because she is an almost famous gymnast.
 
As Charlie gets closer to her Olympic dreams, she longs for an ordinary life --- one which includes a cute boyfriend. Her romantic interest in high school wrestler Bobby Singh predictably complicates her ambitions, and going to prom with Bobby a week before trials could cost her a spot on Team USA. I could truly sympathize with Charlie’s difficult choices as I read. Since I’m a competitive tennis player, I often have to make sacrifices in order to improve my game, such as declining an invitation to go to the beach or the movies with my friends. All young athletes can relate to Charlie as she decides whether achieving her dreams is worth the normal life she’s giving up.

With the Summer Olympics starting in just a few weeks in Brazil, THE FLIP SIDE is a fitting feel-good read for your vacation. Even if gymnastics moves such as Amanar, Kovacs and Yuchenko sound like a foreign language, you will be inspired by Charlie Ryland to find your personal best. Shawn Johnson combines romance, friendship and tough competition in a story that inspires young readers to set the bar higher for themselves.

Reviewed by Juliette G., Teen Board Member on June 17, 2016

The Flip Side
by Shawn Johnson and A.L. Sonnichsen

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Sports
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1481460226
  • ISBN-13: 9781481460224