I totally wanted to be a synchronized swimmer after I read this book. At least, I think this book is what led to it, since it was around the same time. I tried to sign up for classes at the YMCA, but I didn’t rank high enough after their swimming test and had to take lessons first. Then, by the time I reached the appropriate level, I had sort of lost interest in getting up early on Saturday to go swimming.
This book takes place during the summer Olympics – the 1992 ones going by the date it was published. Anyway, SMS is also having its annual Sports Festival. Interesting that it is called annual, but it never showed up in other books.
Jessi’s gym class is doing a swimming unit and when she takes her test for placement in the classes, this synchronized swimming coach sees her and is so awed by how graceful she is, she invited Jessi to join her team. Jessi is paired with another girl Elsie, who is a great swimmer but not so graceful. They figure they are a good match because Jessi is graceful, but sucks at swimming. The pair is competing in the sports festival, and they are really nervous because they are the worst in the class.
Everyone keeps telling Jessi how they know she will win the competition, because she has done so well with dancing before. But Jessi and Elsie are actually horrified at how much they suck because they are used to doing so well at dance and swimming respectively. So, they spend hours of extra time practicing, and at the festival, they win first place. They both decide to quit the team anyway, because they don’t want to work that hard at being good. Because you shouldn’t do things if you aren’t naturally good at them, I guess.
Meanwhile, there are a couple subplots going on.
1) Jessi decides that since everyone is Olympic crazy, the BSC should throw a mini-Olympics for the kids they watch. It is pretty dull, Charlotte Johanssen and Becca refuse to participate but have fun watching. Andrew Brewer can’t win anything, because he is four, but he gets a prize for trying hard. Etc.
2) Kristy challenges Alan Grey to some obstacle-course/race at the festival. They bet a week as a personal slave. Kristy wins, so Alan has to do all the grunt work at the mini-olympics. I would really like to see what would have happened if Alan won. Remember…he has the hots for Kristy.
3) Mallory acts super-lame. She doesn’t want to compete in the festival, because as we all know she hates sports. For some reason her friends are all: “You don’t want to be in the festival? Why not? It is all in fun.” They do this to Mary Anne too, who ignores them. But Mal tries to pretend she sprains her ankle to get out of doing anything. Only, she really sprained her ankle while doing so.
- I totally remember this part: Mme Noelle’s saying that hoses sweat, gentlemen perspire, and ladies “glow.”
- Would an eleven-year-old really be guest in the lead of actual ballets? Like Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty? When I was eleven, my ballet class had a recital every year, but it wasn’t an actual show. I’m sure Jessi’s class is supposed to be more intense, but I can’t see the youngest kid in class getting that many lead roles.
- Becca’s bathing suit was plain white, so she colored it with markers. What kind of kid gets a plain white bathing suit?
- Jessi wants her parents to get a pool and when they say it is too expensive, she offers them her baby-sitting money. Right, Jessi.
- Claud outfit: “Pastel-green, cuffed shorts; a wild Hawaiian shirt tied at the waist, with vibrant colors that picked up the green; and sandals with crisscrossing ankle straps to her knees.”
- I can’t believe a middle school class would have a swimming unit. Especially if there is no pool at the school. Mal and Jessi had to walk a good five minutes to get to the community pool. Then they still have to change. How long is their class that they have time to do this?
- Also, I doubt the school would be allowed to leave campus to go use a pool – my high school was right next to our town pool, but we were never allowed to go there because of various liability issues that exist if a teacher takes kids off school property.
- Mallory is so embarrassed by her bathing suit, that she hides behind Jessi the whole time. Why would she bring a bathing suit she thought looked babyish? She claims she wouldn’t have done it if she knew the boys were going to be able to see her, but wouldn’t she have worried about the girls too? They are the ones more likely to insult her taste in fashion.
- Would a swim test really make people do the dog paddle? I always thought that was a “bad” way to swim, and while it would keep you afloat, you should be taught “real” strokes. I mean, you didn’t see Michael Phelps winning a medal for his awesome dog-paddle, did you?
- In the sports festival, Dawn enters the javelin throw. Her reasoning is that no one knows how to do it, so she won’t be the worst in the class. Again, would middle school have something like that?
- What is wrong with these girls? Charlotte Johanssen does want to be in the mini-Olympics. So, Stacey tricks her and Becca into having their own races, then says, “so isn’t this fun? Are you sure you don’t want to do the Olympics? Then Charlotte feels bad because she thinks Stacey is mad at her.
- When Kristy hears Charlotte doesn’t want to enter, she can’t believe it. Has she met Charlotte?
- Mary Anne calls Charlotte to tell her she isn’t being in the sports festival, so Charlotte shouldn’t feel bad about not being in the mini-olympics. Charlotte actually convinces Mary Anne to sell refreshments at the festival. Meanwhile, poor Mal still can’t admit she doesn’t want to do it.
- Of course Jessi gets to choreograph the swimming routines.
- Claudia enters a “backwards race,” and I am pretty sure she only did it to show off her outfit: “Electric pink track shorts with a turquoise racing stripe, a matching top with cut off sleeves, brand new high-top track shoes with no socks, and floral print suspenders.”
- I can sort of see Jessi not wanting to keep swimming, because she wanted to save her energy for ballet. But I really think she just didn’t like being naturally good at something.