________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 5 . . . . October 29, 2004


Flip Turn. (Sports Stories; 67).

Monique Polak.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2004.
102 pp, pbk. & cl., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55028-818-0 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55028-819-9 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Swimming-Juvenile fiction.
Missing persons-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

*** /4


With less than a lap left, I have the feeling Svetlana's purposely keeping pace with me taunting me. I try to push ahead, but can't, and Svetlana knows it. It takes everything I have to maintain my pace.

I focus on the other end of the pool. Six more strokes and I'll be there. Go! I tell myself.

Svetlana snorts again. A mist of water sprays my shoulders and suddenly, she passes me.

When I reach the wall, I tear off my goggles and hurl them into the water. I hate Svetlana! Even more than that, I hate losing!

"Will you relax? Today was only practice," a voice whispers. Ashley hands me my goggles. She's puffing slightly. She's come in fourth not that it would bother her.

Ashley's my best friend, but there are times like now when her habit of looking on the bright side gets kind of annoying. It doesn't matter to me that this was practice and not a real competition. The thing is: I just wanna win.

Flip Turn, a title in the "Sports Stories" series, has competitive swimming as the basis for its story. Each book in the series is based on a sport, but all the stories also include a secondary theme dealing with relationships. In this book, a family has a problem with communication and has to come to grips with depression and forgiveness.

     Victoria, aka Vicky, has noticed a change in her family. Bill, Vicky's dad, is in commercial real estate and works all the time. Her mom, Tess, has become non-communicative and speaks only in one syllable words. She used to officiate and sometimes watch practices, but lately she lies in bed with a washcloth over her eyes, the 'blues" having lasted for over two months. Vicky and her parents live in a big house on a fancy block in Côte-des Neiges in Quebec. They used to be "picture perfect," but now they are having problems.

     Ashley, who joined the swim team to help control her asthma, is Vicky's best friend. Matt also joined the team at the same time as Vicky. Vicky has suddenly become aware of how cute Matt is. Svetlana, a teammate and rival, is similar to Vicky in that she wants to win. Svetlana also seems interested in Matt.

     The situation intensifies when Vicky's mother disappears and her dad refuses to go to the police. Vicky is worried, but her dad lets it slip that her mother has disappeared before. When Vicky and Ashley investigate on their own, they find a gold ring in her mother's drawer. The ring has initials from Tess' maiden name and another set of initials, not that of Vicky's father. By talking to the housekeeper, Vicky manages to locate the old boyfriend, R.L., Rupert Linkletter, who says he lost touch with Tess after the accident. With more investigation, Vicky discovers that her mother was a lifeguard on duty when a six-year-old boy drowned. Vicky realizes that her mother has disappeared twenty-five years to the day of the little boy's tragic death.

     Svetlana competes with Vicky in the pool and also for Matt's affections. Vicky is jealous and wants revenge. She realizes that she must beat Svetlana in the provincials on the weekend. Swimming will take her mind off her problems at home. At the provincials, Svetlana tries to psych Vicky out before the race, but during the race, Ashley runs into difficulty with her asthma, and Svetlana rushes to her rescue even though it means that Vicky will win. Vicky feels badly that she was so focused on the race that she didn't know Ashley was in trouble. When Vicky overhears a conversation between Svetlana and her mother, she realizes how much pressure there is on Svetlana to win.

     When Vicky faces her dad with the need to know the truth, he realizes that she is growing up. Vicky's mom comes back the night before the swimming competition. She has been to Vancouver to visit the family of the little boy who had drowned. Tess realizes that the hardest thing is to forgive yourself. There is hope that Vicky's family will work together and get through the difficult times.

     The novel is divided into 25 short chapters which often end with a high emotional pull. Readers would be able to follow the plot easily. Characters are believable and likeable. Dialogue is effective and plausible for the situation. This novel is well suited for the intended audience. The story is told in first person which allows the reader to experience the uncertainty and frustration that Vicky goes through.

     Monique Polak did extensive research with swimmers, coaches and swim teams to write this novel. It would be an excellent addition to school, public and personal libraries. The swimming theme draws a sports reader while the relationship theme would appeal to a realistic fiction reader.

Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold, a retired teacher-librarian, educator and Resource Based Learning Consultant, lives in Shellbrook, SK.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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