Saturday 26 September 2015

The Flyaway Girls

The Flyaway Girls by Julia Lawrinson (Penguin Books) PB RRP $ 14.99  ISBN 9780143308652

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

It is difficult for anyone who is passionate about succeeding but who does not have natural talent. This is the dilemma that ultimately faces Chelsea, the hardest worker in her gymnastics club, who aspires to making the National team and then, hopefully, the Olympics. Chelsea is obsessed with her sport and practices endlessly, often neglecting her relationships, especially with her school friends Rosie and Gemma, both musically inclined. She feels confident of achieving her goal until a new girl joins her squad.

Almost immediately Chelsea sees that Telia, despite not being as technically perfect as she is at first, has more natural talent. Before long Telia overcomes initial problems and succeeds in a way that has Chelsea convinced she never can: Telia even completes a full straight-body somersault, something that Chelsea with all her determination and practice has never been able to do. Chelsea continues to strive but she is conflicted, trying to distance herself from Telia who is friendly and seemingly not as committed as she is.

Anyone who is obsessed about success, in whatever field, can surely understand Chelsea’s jealousy of the gifted newcomer and her frustration at not being able to make the cut. She loves her sport and is willing to do what it takes, but all her work seems to be for nothing when Telia is selected instead of her for the Nationals. Hard work is not enough is the message: one needs the x factor that Telia naturally has.

Should Chelsea continue with her gymnastic career, or give up? In the end, she learns that part of growing up is learning how to accept what gifts one has and to manage the gap between what she wants and what life has on offer.

This novel, aimed at girl readers aged 10 years and up, is very focused on the skills and practices of gymnastics.  It would mostly interest any reader with an interest in the sport or one who aspires to being top of her field. 

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