A Matter of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy
Published: May 12, 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Source: Gifted by my #otspsecretsister
Readers will happily sink into this emotionally grounded, contemporary young adult novel about the sudden end of one girl's Olympic swimming dreams and the struggles she endures before realizing there are many things that define who we are.
Sixteen-year-old Abby Lipman is on track to win the state swim championships and qualify for the Olympic trials when a fainting incident at a swim meet leads to the diagnosis of a deadly heart condition. Now Abby is forced to discover who she is without the one thing that's defined her entire life. [goodreads]
As soon as I saw 'swimming' in this book's description, my attention was immediately peeked. As someone who enjoys being a spectator of the sport, I am also on a quest to find more young adult literature that centers around it as well. This novel did not disappoint.
Abby is on the fast track to becoming an Olympic swimmer. All she has to do is get through State and make it to the qualifying round. She has been training her entire young adult life for this opportunity, creating a name for herself in the sport. She's competitive and relentless, up until a heart condition literally stops her dead in the pool.
At first she is numb to the diagnosis, not wanting to accept the fate she's been handed. Abby refuses to give up on her Olympic dream, as well as disappointing her once hopeful swimmer of a father too. Her determination spins out of control, landing her not only outside of the pool, but almost six feet in the ground, too. It was difficult to witness Abby as she broke down and attempted to regain herself. She had this dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer, and now those dreams were being washed away.
The writing style of this novel was packed with emotional punches. I truly felt myself in Abby's place as I read through her most inner thoughts and feelings. I believe this novel will resonate with many teens today, giving them an opportunity to identify with what it's like to be on a determined path, but then having to rediscover yourself all over again. The pressure that exists today for teens is surreal, and this novel definitely highlights that detail in a gracious, yet realistic voice.
I enjoyed the relationships that Abby has outside the pool as well, providing a solid catalyst that propels Abby's story forward. Her relationship with a certain boy definitely softened the hard edges at times. But it was her relationship with her father, the one person she never wanted to disappoint, that really stood out for me. When you love someone that much, you want to see them succeed. Witnessing Abby's father's pain was heartbreaking, yet also triumphing in just the right places.
If you're a fan of emotional, yet rewarding young adult novels, especially ones that highlight the beautiful sport of swimming, then I highly recommend this one. It's definitely classified as your "quieter YA", but it left a lasting impression on me, one I will continue to recommend.