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Ana on the edge
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Publishers Weekly Review
Debut novelist Sass tackles the subject of gender identity in this #OwnVoices novel set in the world of competitive figure skating. Ana-Marie Jin, a biracial (Chinese/white) 12-year-old figure skater, faces new challenges after winning Juvenile Nationals. Moving up to the intermediate level means that, instead of skating in hometown San Francisco with best friend Tamar, Ana will work with a coach and a famous choreographer in nearby Oakland. Never a fan of dresses or skirts, Ana balks when the choreographer assigns a princess-themed routine ("the graceful edges, the dainty arm movements"). What feels more comfortable is when transgender skater Hayden, whom Ana is teaching in exchange for free ice time, sees Ana as a boy. Ana's bourgeoning understanding of gender within a traditionally binary sport, and fear that people won't accept or understand a different pronoun, offers a mirror and window for readers. Nonbinary figure skater Sass renders scenes on and off the ice with vivid descriptions, and writes nuanced, layered portrayals of characters including Ana's devoted working-class mother, inspirational coach, and friend Hayden, who knows exactly who he is. Ages 8--12. Agent: Jordan Hamessley, New Leaf Literary. (Oct.)
Booklist Review
Twelve-year-old Ana Jin, U.S. figure skating champion, thinks it'll be a "bite of bao" to perform well enough to skip regionals and qualify for sectionals. It will save her mom money and buy Ana time to figure out why skating to a princess-themed program is causing her distress--and why she's so intrigued by her new transgender friend, Hayden, who mistakes her for a boy when they meet. Ana doesn't correct him, and soon she's going by "A" and using he/him pronouns with Hayden's family. As Ana struggles to be honest about herself with the people closest to her, including her mom--whose relationship with Ana is the star of this book--Sass masterfully balances Ana's passion for competitive figure skating with her journey to coming out. This is a sensitive and realistic portrayal of the barriers faced by nonbinary kids, such as encountering gendered language and educating loved ones, and Ana's story is made more effective by her diverse LGBTQ+ community, plus non-LGBTQ+ allies who make sure they're using the correct language for her. Ana ultimately decides on she/her pronouns, while acknowledging that she's still learning about herself, and as she skates her way to a program that feels just right for who she is, she realizes that being truly seen by the people you love most is as freeing as being on the ice.
Horn Book Review
After winning the title of U.S. Juvenile Girls Champion in figure skating, twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin is ready to start a new season on the ice, competing at a higher level and commuting most days from San Francisco to a new rink in Oakland. It also means working with a new choreographer who is not only strict but requires all female skaters to wear skirts, even to practice. Ana starts to notice that "girly" things at which she had previously never blinked an eye, such as being referred to as "Miss Ana-Marie" and wearing a bedazzled costume for competitions, now make her cringe. With help from new friend Hayden, a transgender skate student she meets at the rink, Ana begins to see her gender in a new, fluid way: "Uncertainty feels like less of a burden and more of an opportunity." Ana's family (a single-parent Chinese American Jewish family) is not one frequently represented in middle-grade stories. For all of the protagonist's discomfort, the tone of the story remains hopeful as she works toward a new understanding of herself. She decides to continue using her given name and pronouns -- a helpful reminder that there is no one way to identify as nonbinary. The personal connection of the author, a figure skater who identifies as nonbinary, to the story is evident within its pages in both the nuances of figure skating and Ana's interrogation of gender, and is explained in a thoughtful note at the end. Hill Saxton November/December 2020 p.111(c) Copyright 2020. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Review
A nonbinary ice-skating champion loses balance as insecurities about money push her to excel at the expense of being true to herself and honest with her mom. Rising off a first-place triumph at the U.S. Nationals, 12-year-old figure skater Ana Jin leaps into a new level of training for the next season. She gets to skate at a better rink, take off-ice classes, and work with a prestigious choreographer. Despite the thrill of achieving her dreams, high skating fees weigh on Ana's mind. Ana's White Jewish father left when she was small and is not part of her life; she lives with her Chinese American mom who converted to Judaism. Afraid to let anyone down and desperate to save her single mom money, Ana grapples in secret with her discomfort around her new princess-themed routine and her developing questions about her gender identity. This coming-out story departs from linear narratives about self-discovery and transitioning. Ana doesn't begin the story knowing the word nonbinary or even aware that transgender people exist; she awakens to new possibilities about her identity after meeting Hayden, a White transgender boy. Friendship conflict boils in the background as Ana's most present worries cause her to neglect her best friend. Family relationships and communication also play a significant role. The resolution leaves Ana's future open to future self-exploration within the comfort of a secure support system. Vulnerable and affirming. (author's note) (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Perfect for fans of Melissa and Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, this heartfelt coming of age story introduces a nonbinary athlete navigating a binary world.

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season's program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn't correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he's around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it's tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking years of hard work and sacrifice.

Syndetics Unbound
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