By Lauren Morrill
Available now from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
Read my interview with Lauren
Sloane Emily Jacobs is a politician's daughter being forced into a figure-skating comeback by her mom, who basically thinks it's good publicity. Sloane Devon Jacobs is a hockey player struggling with her emotions on the ice in the wake of her mother going to rehab. The two girls meet in a hotel on their way to camps for their respective sports and decide to trade places, since no one knows them where they're going. Each wants an escape and figures the other has it easier.
BEING SLOANE JACOBS is a slight book, but sometimes you want something cute that goes down easy. There are some serious problems in both girls' lives, but they aren't the focus. Both Sloane Jacobs grow more into themselves during the summer, but it's not a particularly painful process - except maybe physically.
If you're into sports and interested in that angle, do note that Lauren Morrill goes into more depth about the figure skating and the practice that goes into making it look effortless than she does the hockey. There are several hockey games within the novel, however; it isn't completely glossed over. And while the plot is somewhat improbable, I like that neither girl is instantly successful. They have to work for any sort of basic proficiency, which is realistic.
I also like that they both develop friendships at the camps. There can never be enough focus on friendship in teen books, in my opinion. Friends are just such an important part of life, especially when you're young and away from home. My one quibble would be that figure skating and hockey camps are great settings for some openly gay and lesbian characters and Morrill does not take advantage of that opportunity.
Both girls also get romances. Sloane Emily's love interest has a bad reputation; Sloane Devon's knows her from high school and thus can't be allowed to notice she isn't actually at hockey camp. I think I enjoyed Sloane Emily's more - they spend more time together and there's less of an age difference. But both romances in BEING SLOANE JACOBS are quite sweet and get enough development to be believable. Best of all, neither is presented as being some forever and ever love.
I think BEING SLOANE JACOBS is good comfort food. It's got just enough edge from the sports and personal issues to not be completely mushy, and enough romance and personal triumph to put a smile on your face. Plus, it's a good one to toss on your Winter Olympics reading list. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who has one.)