Watching the last few events of the Olympics was nicely timed with finishing up a middle grade or teen novel set amid the swimming competitions at London 2012 – and made for an interesting intersection of fact and fiction! If you’ve got an older kid or teen who has caught Olympic fever, this would make for a great read to extend their interest past the closing ceremonies this weekend.
Rush for the Gold
by John Feinstein
Alfred A Knopf
ISBN: 978 0 375 86963 1
This novel opens as Susan Carol Anderson is just becoming a big swimming star after a world championship win, and with Olympic trials coming. The suddenly taller, stronger, and faster teen finds herself suddenly surrounded by agents, and her love of the sport begins to change as the stakes and pressures shift from excellence for its own sake to the pursuit of contracts and bonuses.
Her boyfriend and fellow reporter is covering her rise, all the while trying to help her as she watches her dad get swept away in the possibilities for her and finds herself becoming pretty disenchanted. By the time the Olympics get going, her boyfriend Stevie begins to realize that there is something more going on, and starts snooping around a bit while he’s in London covering the games. What follows involves, at its worst, a corrupt official fudging a call, but of course, all ends well.
Though this is billed as a “sports mystery,” it is not so much the suspenseful unraveling of a whodunnit as following a trail, with the reader finding out as fast as Stevie does. The actual mystery, or crime, is not earthshaking, meaning this is completely suitable for grades 4-6, even as it is not too young for teens and could hold their interest. What I did enjoy about this, and what could make it really interesting for teens as well, was the very detailed look at the sport and how sponsorships change it, and at the pressures of sudden fame and potential fortune.
Also available as an ebook.