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Stick The Landing

Tillie Walden’s memoir, Spinning, is a poignant look at youth sports, first love, and growing up.

Stick The Landing

BOOK REPORT for Spinning by Tillie Walden

Cover Story: Anywhere But Here
BFF Charm: Big Sister
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: In Her Head
Arty Art: From Her Hand
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ, Skating
Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Better Friends

Trigger Warning: There is a scene of attempted sexual abuse in Spinning that might be triggering for some readers.

Cover Story: Anywhere But Here

That poor little girl. The feeling that she wants to be anywhere but that line is palpable. And certainly sets a tone for the story within.

The Deal:

As a young girl, Tillie Walden was a competitive figure skater. First in New Jersey, then in Austin, TX, Walden spent most of her waking hours when she wasn’t in school training for her solo performances and practicing with her synchronized skating team.

As she got older, Walden found herself dealing with bullies, struggling to make friends, having a strained relationship with her family, and coming to terms with her sexuality—not the fact that she was gay, but how to tell people and how to avoid the harsh judgement of her peers.

When Walden eventually realized that skating wasn’t the outlet she once thought it was, quitting became the biggest struggle of all.

BFF Charm: Big Sister

Throughout her youth, Walden became attached to various older women who made her feel safe, loved, or important. (Her mother was not one of these women, but more on that later.) She gravitated toward her coaches, her cello teacher, and older girls on her skating team. She was obviously looking for some sort of solid presence who would make a positive impression, and help her with her struggles, both internal and external. I would have been honored to be one of those chosen few.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Spinning documents Walden’s first love and first relationship, which happened when she was pretty young. It ends like many first loves, but is filled with a few sweet moments.

Talky Talk: In Her Head

In Spinning, Walden gives readers a first-hand account of her childhood as a competitive skater and of the thoughts that were going through her head. It’s a tough read, watching her struggle with the things she struggles with, and it’s made even more so knowing that the book’s a memoir. (Not that I don’t feel for fictional characters, mind you.)

In her author’s note, Walden mentions that people often ask her what Spinning’s all about, and she says that she doesn’t really know how to answer; she writes that it’s up for the readers to decide. For me, the book is about the struggle of growing up, and finding the strength to quit something that used to mean so much and has become an indelible part of your personality. Both of which can be extraordinarily hard things, but there’s something poetic in being able to look back and realize that you made it through mostly unscathed.

Arty Art: From Her Hand

Walden’s art has a peaceful quality about it. Her lines are loose, and there aren’t a lot of minute details in her panels. She uses color sparingly, pops of yellow giving importance to certain scenes. It all adds up to a dreamlike experience, one that fits the memoir well.



Panel via Macmillan

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

Walden’s known she was gay since she was about 5 years old, but didn’t come out to anyone until she was in her teens. I’m sure her experience differs from many people’s—everyone’s experiences are different, gay, straight or otherwise—but I appreciated reading about someone who was so certain of herself at such a young age, even if it took a while for her to feel comfortable enough with others to share.

Bonus Factor: Skating

Although Walden makes skating seem like a drag, it was interested to get a look at the sport behind the scenes.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Patty Chase Award for Awful Parenting

Walden’s mom was kind of terrible. Not in an abusive way, but she doesn’t seem to care, at all, about her daughter or what’s she’s going through. She worries more about money than anything else. Additionally, although her Dad takes her to practice, neither of them ever attend her competitions. Tille says that she doesn’t care, but I know I certainly would if I were her.

(Walden specifically thanks her mom in the book’s acknowledgements, so I’d be curious to know if their relationship changed after Walden graduated from high school.)

Relationship Status: Better Friends

Thanks for opening up to me, Book, and helping me to get to know you so much better. We might have been acquaintances at first, but I feel a real connection to you now. Your early life wasn’t easy, but you seem to have come through it all the better for it.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from First Second. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Spinning is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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