Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics

Rush for the Gold, the sixth sports mystery for teens by author John Feinstein, was a fun read. Check out the reviews on Goodreads. com.

I hadn't read the other mysteries, but it didn't matter. When I open a book, I always hope to explore places I've never been, and in Rush for the Gold,  I was in the world of women's competitive swimming.

 Feinstein knows the details of competitive sports. As Susan Carol, fifteen and one of the two main characters, tucks her hair under her swim cap, dons her goggles, climbs onto the block, arches her back, and plunges into the pool at the Olympic trials and London Olympics, it was as if I was there too, in a Speedo counting my strokes to the wall, swimming in the next lane. A towel was almost necessary as I, I mean she, got out of the pool.

What kind of lives do teen women athletes live? What are the physical demands? What kind of pressures to they contend with from parents who are blinded by money, agents who hope to market young girl athletes, preferably a pretty girl like Susan Carol, six feet tall, with "the smile?" I easily imagined all of it, the excitement and the pressures, too.

But the Olympic sports world isn't the only world I was given access to while on my sofa reading. I could also imagine what it might be like to be a sports journalist for the Washington Post, like Susan Carol's boyfriend, Stevie Thomas, the other main character in this novel. His weaseling into special events for athletes and the wealthy only, chasing the truth no matter where it took him, and digging up the dirt on money-hungry, condescending agents and reps from sports manufacturers was for me a good time. Also appearances by stars like journalist Bob Costas (I'm a fan of his in real life)  and the name dropping of NBA stars, made me feel like an insider, though at times unbelievable. But they were all there. It was the London Olympics!

There was a real mystery here involving greed and the bribing of officials. Anyone looking for romance will not find it here, except for quick hugs and kisses between Susan Carol and Stevie in passing. After all, they are just too busy living exciting lives, scheduled down to the minute.

The novel is written in close third through both characters. The narrator had the voice of a sports writer, no surprise. Some reviewers on Goodreads thought some of the writing could have been cut, that it seemed rushed, perhaps for the book to come out in the Olympic year. Still, maybe I'm gullible, but I mostly believed the fictional world created by Feinstein, and enjoyed reading about two teens totally immersed in this crazy, frenetic world of high stakes sports, winners and losers.

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