Brooklyn-based young adult author and former gymnast Donna Freitas recently published Gold Medal Summer, a book about aspiring elite gymnasts. This summer page-turner is a sure way to get your tween amped for the London Olympics.
Looking for a summer page-turner for your tween? Brooklyn-based young adult author and former gymnast Donna Freitas’s new book, Gold Medal Summer (ages 10 and older; $16.99; amazon.com), teaches important lessons about growing up and dealing with the pressures of teenage life. Not to mention, protagonist Joey is an aspiring elite gymnast. We asked Freitas for her take on the popular sport that can be stressful, yet rewarding, on and off the beam.
What led you to turn the sport of gymnastics into a young adult novel?
[My publisher] and I were talking about my life as a gymnast and at one point she said that I should write a novel for girls about it. Back when I was a young gymnast I was always searching for books and novels and magazines—really anything I could get my hands on—about gymnastics, and they were so difficult to find.
Did the upcoming London Olympics influence the book at all?
After I found out that there were still no novels that featured gymnasts, the timing of the London Olympics simply sealed the idea that we had to do this.
Gold Medal Summer portrays the stress of such a competitive sport. After competing yourself, would you encourage young kids to get involved in gymnastics?
It is such a grueling, tough sport, and one that requires unbelievable commitment and so much sacrifice. But then, being a gymnast did so many good things for me as a girl, and then as a young woman. Gymnastics gave me confidence, it made me strong—physically strong, and emotionally strong, too. It made me appreciate my body. I also had a lot of fun. So being a serious gymnast is a mix of wonderful and really, really complicated stuff.
Do you have a poignant memory of watching the Olympics growing up?
Oh yes! I had my Olympics moment by watching videos of Nadia Comaneci on the floor, beam, and bars, and wishing with all my might that I could be her some day—she was my idol. When the U.S. hosted the Olympics in 1984, I read that she was going to be there, and I wrote her a fan letter. I included a self-addressed stamped envelope inside and she wrote me back! I couldn’t believe it. It’s such a happy memory for me.
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