Monday, November 3, 2008

Flip Turns by Monique Polak

When I was growing up, I was completely devoted to reading two series: The Saddle Club and Animorphs. I was tempted to re-read a Saddle Club book to gain a different perspective on familiar territory since my views on competition and riding horses have changed, but I found a more interesting choice in Flip Turns.

This book centers itself on 13 year old Veronica. She is an extremely competitive swimmer living in a highly dysfunctional family. Her mother has major depression issues, which impairs her parenting ability and forces Victoria to mature quickly: She takes the city bus to school and practice, provides moral support for her mother, helps prepare dinner with the house help and tries to convince her mom to eat (lack of appetite due to depression, not a classic eating disorder).

Victoria’s dad is a workaholic who will always choose a sale over bonding with the family. She feels as though she and her father are strangers. He doesn’t even know Victoria’s schedule, let alone her concerns with every day life.

Besides these serious family troubles, Victoria must cope with an average teenager’s dilemmas such as jealousy, crushes and being the best friend you can be. However, the biggest problem arises when her mother suddenly disappears without warning, leading her on a search as to why and where her mother might be. While rummaging through her mother’s room she finds fragments of her mother’s past life and the reason behind her depression.

Feeling as though her life is spiraling out of control, she finds stability in swimming and the upcoming big competition. I feel as though every teenager goes through an incredibly rough time and clings onto, or forms different ways to cope with this part of their life. I can relate to Victoria’s case because I was competing with horses, and always viewed it as a safe haven from all of my troubles. And despite not having the finances to own the best horse (horse industry is crazy expensive), this, and my problems drove me to practice three times harder than my competition. I often dismounted my horse with the inside of my knees bleeding because I had done countless exercises without stirrups (the part of the saddle that you put your feet in for stability). But it didn’t matter because the pain paled in comparison to feeling accomplished, and in control.

The great thing about this book is that it shows how parents are people with their own complex problems too. This is a really important step in a person’s life in order to get past the “my parents are stupid and don’t understand me!” mentality…although sometimes this feeling may linger after this enlightenment.

It also shows Victoria learning that communication is the best way to figure out what she’s feeling, or solving problems. She eventually confronts her father about him being so absent from her life, and demands that they call the cops to find her mother (he was afraid the media would ruin family’s reputation). By doing so, she brings her family back together in a very believable way and teaches young adults that speaking your mind is the first step towards independence, and getting things done.

Overall I thought this was a great book for young girls, because let’s face it-no family is perfect. It not only focuses on Victoria’s family, but also provides a glimpse into a couple of the other girls on the team to provide a wider range of dysfunction. Through this variation of teen troubles, it shows how to empathize, and deal with stressful situations in a healthy manner.

No comments: