As Fast As I Can, by Penny Tangey
I absolutely devoured this heartfelt, funny and brilliantly written story, which has all the essential ingredients for the perfect middle grade novel, including:
An endearing protagonist: Vivian, who wants nothing more than to compete one day in the Olympic Games, is funny, determined and very likeable.
An engrossing plot: When Vivian discovers that she is good at cross country running she feels like she's edging closer to her dreams of becoming an Olympian. However an illness in the family changes everything and Vivian slowly realises that she may have to readjust her goals and dreams. How she gets there makes for gripping - and at times heart-breaking - reading.
Humour: I adored the gentle humour threaded throughout the narrative, which really made this book zing for me. You can tell that Penny Tangey has a background as a standup comedian.
Not shying away from more difficult themes: I love how the author navigates difficult themes, like illness and it's impact on families, in a way that is honest and real - but also age appropriate. As a reader, we feel that the subject matter is in capable hands - portrayed with sensitivity and an assured touch. Penny never talks down to her middle grade audience. There are no easy answers to some of the issues raised, but importantly, there is always hope.
With its themes of resilience and friendship and sports and family, this book will make you laugh and make you cry and is highly recommended.
Published by UQP Books