Flora wants to escape from potato farm life in Maine after her soccer-playing mother's death, so when she is asked to go to a two week program to pick girls to train for the US Women's National Team, she is very excited. She is impressed by the training facilities and the programs while realizing that the competition is very tough and some of the girls are horrible and mean. She rooms with a nice gymnast, Samantha, has a bit of a crush on Logan, and is a bit scared of the intense British coach. She struggles with feeling fat (even though she is lean but very muscular) and works through some body issues. When her grandfather has a stroke with just a few days left of camp, she has to decide whether to stay and pursue her dream, or return to her family.
Strengths: Lots of soccer action, and a fascinating portrayal of what truly elite soccer players go through. The whole book felt very well thought out and balanced. The close-knit, hardworking French-American family was also a nice touch.
Weaknesses: The mean girls were a little cliched.
Lily lives for soccer, and her involved but busy family knows it. Because she cares so deeply about the sport, she has some problems with impulse control on the field. When she tries to impress a scout at the expense of the team and other players, they turn against her and she is benched for two games. At the same time, her grandfather moves into her room and she is blamed for damaging a sign when she didn't, although she was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since her other friends, especially Vee, aren't talking to her, she gets to know Tabitha, whom she had always thought was spoiled and snotty. She starts to realize that Tabitha's dad is overbearing, and that everyone has problems of one sort or another. Lily must come to terms with how to handle her own problems in a way that doesn't cause her to give up on her passion of playing soccer.
Strengths: This was a good sports book for slightly younger girls, and this issues with friends and family complemented the sports action.
Weaknesses: Tabitha's family has a driver and a housekeeper? I suppose there are families like that, but it's so outside my realm of experience that I couldn't believe it! Also, looking at the covers of these three, I like the action shots better.
Tess prefers sports to school, so when her school district is in danger of cutting sports if the levy fails, she decides to try to sway her neighbors into voting for the schools. She realizes that it is hard for some of her neighbors financially to do this, but she doesn't understand when a family with children in a private school are so opposed to the levy. School and soccer go on while the levy is approaching, and Tess and her friends manage to have a lot of adventures and to get into a little bit of trouble along the way. When the fateful day arrives, Tess is crushed when the levy fails, but decides that she loves soccer so much that she will find some way to play.
Strengths: Tess is an engaging, if difficult, character, and her plight is all too real! This is a great realistic fiction book for girls who like soccer. I loved the (slightly dated) storyline concerning the computer teacher and the Case of the Missing Mouse Balls. Very true to life! I'll have to see if Ms. Fitzgerald has written anything else.
Weaknesses: The ending was somehow incomplete. HOW would Tess play soccer? What were the other implications for the school when the levy failed? There was a slightly less than flattering depiction of the library and librarian, but would the library still be open if the levy failed? Oh, wait. Now we're just getting too close to my life.