Monday, January 11, 2021

Book Review: The Comeback: A Figure Skating Novel by E.L. Shen

Maxine's family moved to way upstate New York, to Lake Placid, where she's the only Chinese-American kid at her school, and where there are multiple world-class level skating facilities and instructors, thanks to Lake Placid having hosted the Winter Olympics way before Maxine was born. Maxine practices hard every day and she's determined to master the next trick in her skating repertoire. 

She and her best friend have grown apart, but that's not presented as a tragedy which is nice. A new girl at the rink, Hollie, at first seems like fierce competition for Maxine, but eventually they become friends. The titular comeback in question is what Maxine should say to this horrid boy at school next time he makes a racist remark to her. The book's description describes the events as "micro-aggressions" but there's nothing micro about these--they're pretty obvious. So Maxine and Hollie come up with some harsh but true comebacks, and next time she's bullied, she's prepared and attacks right back. The bully, naturally, is shocked by this turn of events and Maxine standing up for herself.

You don't have to know anything about skating to enjoy this book. I really liked the friendship between Maxine and Hollie, who is relatively shy and homeschooled, so not a traditional school-based friendship like you normally see at this age. And it's a great message about clapping back and not just accepting being bullied. I wish at her age someone had helped me come up with a comeback or two instead of just spouting off the useless advice to "ignore them and they'll stop" (NO THEY WON'T.) It also just would have been nice to have an approach that was proactive instead of just defensive. I hope Maxine grows up to be a strong young woman mentally as well as physically. 

This book is published by Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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