Review: SUGAR AND ICE by Kate Messner

Posted 15 December, 2010 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 2 Comments

Final Grade 98/A
288 pages
MG Contemporary
Review copy purchased
Available Now
Rated G

For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family’s farm. But all that changes when Russian skating coach Andrei Grosheva offers Claire a scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire realizes that her sweet dream come true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want to see her fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

MY THOUGHTSFabulous story. Within the first three paragraphs, I was already exclaiming to my dogs, who love to hear about the books I’m reading, about the incredible voice in this book. I could hear Claire and her mom talking in the sugarhouse, smell the sweet maple syrup cooking, and feel the chill in the air. The imagery was beautifully done.

As was the story itself. Claire is offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train with an awesome coach and skaters who are the cream of the crop. Despite some trepidation and uncertainty, she takes it and sets off down a path she never expected. I don’t recall reading if Kate Messner competed in sports or anything when she was younger, but this book certainly reads as if she did. She does an amazing job detailing the intense mental and physical pressure athletes and high-caliber competitors face every day as well as showing the dedication and sacrifice it takes to be elite.
Claire herself is a great character and an excellent role model for girls. She’s kind, brave, and willing to work hard for what she wants. Plus, she loves math—there’s a whole sub-plot revolving around Claire’s math project which involves Fibonacci numbers. Though I’m more of an English chick, I really enjoyed Claire’s fascination with Fibonacci numbers and how she even connected them to skating (I love when everything intersects like that in books).
There were so many things I loved about this book: how supportive Claire’s parents were, the flirtation between Claire and a cute skater boy, the sports psychologist who helps Claire when she has trouble with her jumps, Claire’s best friend and her love and care of her honeybees, the description of the skaters on the ice, and Claire’s new skating friend and her love of fantasy and paranormal novels. All these elements blend beautifully into the overall story.
If I had to fuss about something, it would be that the “bad” guy was a little obvious. Well, to me, at least. It’s probably because I’ve had experience with uber-competitive girls and have been stabbed in the back by them so, when Claire’s saboteur is revealed, I wasn’t too surprised. However, I’m thinking that the girls who read this novel will be surprised, (thus negating my complaint).

One of my favorite books of 2010, SUGAR AND ICE is a sweet spin with a perfect double toe loop around the ice.

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