The Hopeful by Tracy O'Neill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In a word, this is a book of obsession. And I am frankly unsure if I've ever read a book so clearly voiced by the character with the obsession. Alivopro's voice is indisputably teenage, and yet O'Neill takes us so far inside her head, without constantly beating us over the head with "telling" us what she's thinking, that she could be anyone, with any obsession, and we the reader would feel the same.
It's been a long time since I felt so emotionally affected throughout the process of reading a book, but I felt every page of this one, for worse or worser. I know nothing of figure skating other than what I've seen on television during the Olympics, and yet through Alivopro's eyes I saw the sport intimately--all without the seemingly inevitable info dump that authors often find necessary to introduce an ignorant reader to a foreign sport. I understood her descent into drug addiction, just as I understood her disappointment in her adoptive mother and father: I've never been addicted to drugs, nor have I been adopted, but O'Neill writes with such poise that neither of those things matter. I could have been Alivopro, for how I felt as she was going through those experiences.
This is not a book "about figure skating." So while I would be quick to recommend it to any athlete who has ever felt obsessed with his or her sport, I would more strongly recommend it to anyone looking for a genuine teenage voice that does not pander to the formula of the YA genre.
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