This was one of the Cybils teen graphic novel finalists. (Although my son read and enjoyed the winner, Spill Zone, I ran out of time to read it myself.)
Spinning by Tillie Walden. First Second, 2017.
Tillie Walden tells first-hand her story of ice skating in Texas, competing both individually and as part of team. There’s a lot of sleep deprivation from waking up to practice for hours before school, as well as the required uniformity. Tillie keeps going, perhaps drawn by the sense of belonging as opposed to her unemotional family, even as she comes to realize that she doesn’t fit. She hides her crushes on girls, as well as her lack of Christian faith that’s pretty much assumed by everyone else. Increasingly, even as she’s winning prizes and rising in the ice skating ranks, she hides her disenchantment with the sport in general.
Walden is straightforward about the telling, her pictures simple and realistic, mostly black and white with touches of purple, her words minimal. And yet every detail counts here, with the illustration of a turn or the placement of words over a picture speaking volumes about what’s happening. There is a secret romance, but nothing explicitly drawn. Spoiler alert/trigger warning: there is an attempted assault by an adult late in the book. The happy ending must come from the satisfaction of Tillie learning more about herself and accepting it – there is no magical moment when she’s able to have her team or her parents accept who she is.
This book would pair naturally with previous finalist Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash.