Rosie Rinkstar – Janet Rosina West

ARC provided by NetGalley

I picked this book because I figure skate, though not at the level that the protagonist, Rosie, does. I’m not sure why this was categorized as YA, however, as it’s clearly Middle Grade, with fewer than one hundred pages and a simple plot and style.

British skater Rosie comes from a family that’s struggled financially since her father abandoned them, and she and her annoying younger sister, a talented gymnast, both participate in expensive sports and struggle to find the resources they need to excel. Luckily, Rosie has a strong support network, including her loving grandmother, her self-sacrificing mother, her best friend and fellow skater Sergei, and the cleaners at the rink, whom she’s befriended.

The beginning of the book gives the impression that it’s going to be a bit more technical about skating than it is, while it’s really about relationships, money troubles, and rink politics, so I think it would be easy enough to follow even if one doesn’t have a skating background. It’s refreshing to have a protagonist from a lower socioeconomic background, and the novel shows how that affects Rosie in various ways. She’s a lot more responsible and dedicated than I was at her age, but also resentful of her circumstances. The book makes several sharp psychological points; Rosie doesn’t like growing up because she wants to be shielded from the tough adult decisions and sacrifices a little longer, and she acknowledges that “skating can make you a horrible person” because you see other people as obstacles to your goals (as Rosie sees her little sister Bernice, among others). West also gives Rosie a great voice. I could almost hear her in my head.

The most annoying part of this book is the way things seem to happen to Rosie without her doing anything. Her troubles are all externally imposed– tight finances and the mean, pushy mother of another girl at the rink. The solutions are also handed to her rather than based on her actions– her grandmother literally wins the lottery, solving her problems for the time being. Rosie doesn’t really do much other than practice skating and work on a entrepreneurship project for school. There’s no conflict to force her to grow and gain self-knowledge, at least in this installment of the series.

However, Rosie Rinkstar was a charming, quick read, and I don’t regret spending my time on it.

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