Where sports are concerned, the book has a wonderful narrative. I like sports movies or books where you can feel powerful emotions about the plotline without having to know intimate details of how it all works. (For example, my roommate loves baseball movies, but rarely watches baseball and in a good movie, I will only have to explain something once or twice for her to enjoy it.) We have the season of a girl's swim team with a recurring championship on the line as well as the possibility of an athletic scholarship based on breaking a school record. While she goes into the importance of points being scored by others than the first-place swimmer for the overall effort of the team, you don't need to know how things are weighted and the specifics of scoring. The description of the swimming itself takes you into the world of the sport slowly so that you're not overwhelmed by terminology and then keeps the jargon consistent so you know what to look for.
But setting aside the sports mechanics, I'd like to address two things: motivation and maturity. I took issue with the main character's priorities at first. Without giving away too much, I can say that she is a person who gives up everything when her world comes crashing down. That is such a trope. So are her tendencies to be a snot to her stepmother, emotionally distant from her stepsiblings and disrespectful to the dad who just doesn't keep his commitments I found myself rolling my eyes every time she jumped to a conclusion about her stepmother being absent (probably because she's off playing tennis somewhere).
But then the maturity set in. The development into someone who has understanding and compassion for the family that she disregards at the beginning is an impressive one. My only complaint is that it's somewhat sudden, so doesn't feel as natural. Then again, this is someone who has had no warning for her personal catastrophes, partially because of the meddling of adults she should have been able to trust. I was still impressed by this paradigm shift.
The ensemble cast, while stocked with token characters like the stuck-up mean girl, the kooky best friend, the kooky best friend's hot brother, etc., develops quite naturally from their disparate parts into a functioning group that has a hard time succeeding without one of its members. Marianne did a great job creating characters who we eventually cared intensely about and the book is clearly written by someone with a deep love for the sport and for the athletes involved.
Thanks to Loving the Book for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.