As a jiggly-bottomed girl who can’t do a cartwheel, reviewing a novel that focuses on competitive gymnastics drew some trepidation and perhaps a wobble around my middle.
But the The Flyaway Girls is a well paced story for young girls aged between ten and fourteen. I read it one sitting. It flows beautifully like a rhythmic ribbon touching on the nature of friendship, competiveness and self-acceptance.
Chelsea is a devoted hard working gymnast who at the ripe old age of eleven has to work out although hard working and dedicated she is not naturally gifted or exceptionally talented. She does not have the right stuff. Chelsea is steaming mad when an untrained new comer Telia, apparently rips her dream position on the coveted National team from her grasp.
Chelsea’s focus becomes so intense and driven that it begins to cause her all sorts of problems particularly with her friendships and family.
Her obsession to get to the Olympics over rides life. The competitive nature of sport and coaching is called into question.
After a knee injury, she is rude to her two friends, Rosie and Gemma who don’t understand her ambition and single mindedness. They are devoted to their musical instruments but choose to enjoy it and take a more moderate approach.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s Dad has chosen to live in Canberra with his new partner and that’s got to hurt. In fact, it is revealed that Chelsea channels her negative feelings to overcome her fear of the vault. It’s a tip she gives Telia who is having problems with this one piece of equipment.
Telia is a naturally adept at all sports but doesn’t have that drive and prefers to have fun. Ironically, it is in Telia’s company that Chelsea enjoys herself but the green-eyed monster gets in the way and bridges have to be built.
It’s all pretty intense and a little bit alarming that by the end of primary school the girls have worked out their limitations and accepted them. Telia drops out to enjoy the next sport and Chelsea realises she is great at supporting and teaching gymnastics. The two combine their skills and zest for fun to come up with The Flyaway girls, their dance gymnastic display rocks the end of the year concert and a compromise is found.
The themes of the natural verses the hard worker, of self-acceptance and seeing where you fit into the big picture of things are well drawn and totally accessible and relevant to the young pre/teen girl.
Reviewed by Paula Hayes, Creative Kids Tales