D for Doty’s Surviving High School (book review) – school, swim, sleep, repeat?

book cover of Surviving High School by M Doty published by Poppy Books Ultra-competitive swim team,
Every life-minute scripted by Dad-the-coach,
Why isn’t big sister Sara here to help Emily cope with her freshman year of high school?

No wonder Emily wants to sidestep the schedule and have some time with Ben. After all, Sara didn’t get to have her first love before dying in that car crash

Whether you know the mobile game of the same name or not, you’ll agonize with Emily over the choices she has to make and cheer when at least some things go her way. Max Doty’s second book in the series, How to Be a Star, features Emily’s best (and only) friend Kimi and will be published in May 2013.

How far should you push yourself to get to the victor’s stand?

Book info: Surviving High School / M. Doty. Poppy, 2012.  [author website]  [publisher website]

My recommendation: Competitive swimming is Emily’s whole life as she enters high school. Gotta keep up her grades to stay eligible, gotta keep her race times fast to stay on top. But what if there’s more to life than this?

Her dad is the high school swim coach, just as he was when her older sister was at Twin Branches, before she died in the car crash. There’s Sara’s name on the state records plaque with her national record time for the backstroke – a lot to live up to, a goal for Emily to beat.

She’ll have to beat Dominique, too, who’s just a trace faster on freestyle and backstroke, just a bit slower than Em in breaststroke and butterfly, way beyond anyone else at school in mean-girl remarks, nicknaming her “Swimbot” on their first day of varsity practice. That article in Swimmers’ World magazine comparing the girls as future Olympians just adds fuel to the fire.

Emily’s entire life is optimized for swim racing – nutrition intake, sleep hours, strength training – and there’s no room for anything else. With the national qualifying meets coming up, she’s got to concentrate. Handsome Ben starts paying attention to her, but can’t understand why she doesn’t have time to see him outside school…sigh.

Could Emily possibly squeeze in a little time with Ben between her honors classes and the ever-increasing demands for perfection from Coach/Dad?

Does senior Nick flinch when he sees Emily because she looks so much like her late sister, who never had time for a boyfriend?

Will she swim through her freshman year or sink from the weight of everything?

This first YA novel from screenwriter/author Max Doty reflects his experience as game writer for the related mobile game, but stands alone as a story of big demands on young athletes – are all the choices theirs to make? (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com) Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

4 thoughts on “D for Doty’s Surviving High School (book review) – school, swim, sleep, repeat?

  1. New subscriber saying hello from Blogging from A to Z.

    This book shows that not only do parents pressure their children about grades and test scores, they could also pressure them to excel in physical fitness too. There are so many ways for an adolescent to feel like they’re being pushed.

  2. Cynthia, you’re exactly right. Emily’s coach/dad really pours the pressure on after Sara dies in the car crash – every calorie scripted for maximum muscle building, precise sleep schedule, and still keep up honors-level grades…


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