by Tillie Walden
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars
Walden’s graphic novel memoir falls solidly in the same camp as Honor Girl and Tomboy (and is about as confusing and as much of a letdown as Honor Girl). From her website, it seems as though Walden is a very gifted cartoonist, but the drawings in Spinning are very simplistic and I had a hard time telling characters apart and following the story. It’s also hard to take a very fluid activity like ice skating and depict it in a static medium like drawing. It was also hard to watch her put so much time and money and effort into skating when she wasn’t really that into it. Much later, when she does actually quit, she wonders why she didn’t do it sooner, and I was left wondering why also. She touches briefly on her secret relationship with her girlfriend, Rae, but doesn’t really come to any grand conclusions about it, or about skating, or about anything really. She depicts being sexually threatened (harassed? assaulted? I’m not entirely sure how to describe what happened) by her SAT tutor, but it doesn’t really fit into the rest of the narrative in a meaningful way. She also touches on her relationship with her twin brother, who thinks that her being gay is wrong, but she also has other mentors who tell her she’s just fine, like her cello teacher, showing how important it is to have adults in your life who fully support you (unlike her dad, who asked if he had done something wrong to make her gay, which was sad). I’m not really 100% sure what the point of this was, other than an outlet for Walden herself and maybe another in the category of “it gets better” reads for LGBTQIA teens, but given that she’s only 20 it seems like a solid debut work. Plus I love ice skating, so it was interesting to get an inside peek at that world (and synchronized skating, too).