Being Sloane Jacobs

Being Sloane JacobsA reader who enjoyed Lauren Morrill’s debut novel, Meant to Be, or who appreciates books like Sarah Dessen’s Along for the Ride should find pleasure in Morrill’s latest book, Being Sloane Jacobs.  Despite the plot similarities, this book pushes beyond girl drama and romance, skating its way into the sports genre—with a couple of richly descriptive scenes where Sloane Emily and Sloane Devon compare gross injuries.

The skating rink is Sloane Emily Jacobs’ childhood home, but when life in D.C. begins to spin out of control, the figure skating rink becomes another arena where Seej—as she is called by her brother James—feels judged and where everything feels served with a side of eye roll.  With a father fixated on money, politics, and the press and a mother too disciplined and politically correct to even deliver a proper hug, Sloane dreams of being someone else—someone who doesn’t have to keep up appearances, someone who can escape both public scrutiny and the family motto: “Good, better, best, never let it rest, until your good is better than your best” (32).

In Philadelphia, Sloane Devon Jacobs has similar dreams of escape.  With a mom in treatment for alcohol rehabilitation and a father who is scraping to makes ends meet, Sloane suffers her own version of dysfunction, using her aggression in the hockey rink to channel her misery.  When she gets benched for fighting, a skate camp inMontreal is her ticket to prove herself.  With $100.00 spending money from her father and her hockey gear bag, she boards a bus.

To make her come back in figure skating after a flopped performance at Junior Nationals, Sloane Emily registers for a figure skating camp at Baliskaya Skating Institute inMontreal.  “Prim and pretty, with a suitcase full of spandex . . . , gold blades on her skates” (72), and $1,000 spending money from her father, Sloane flies to Canada.

At their hotel, the two girls literally run into each other, and after a luggage mix-up, since they share the same name and look somewhat familiar, they are forced together, vent their anger, and wonder about trading lives—after all, how hard can it be to skate around dressed in rhinestones and sequins while waving your arms and smiling for the camera or whizzing around on the ice barreling into people while wearing padding and protective gear?  With their stereotypes and eagerness for escape blinding their good judgment, the two athletes switch places.  After sixteen years of obedience and restraint, Sloane Emily is eager “to flip her parents and her skating career a big middle finger and skip off to fake it as a hockey player” (110).

Sloane Devon is just as happy to take all the luxury off Sloane Emily’s hands as Sloane Emily is to hide in Sloane Devon’s sweat pants and soft t-shirts. As they navigate their new roles, each girl acquires a nemesis.  For Sloane Devon, it’s the petite and haughty, “pink is my signature color” (101) Ivy; and for Sloane Emily, it’s the muscle-bound, übercompetitive, “hit her so hard she pees” (303) Melody.  The pranks, antagonism, and competition escalate until the “pretty, poised, perfect” Sloane Emily and the “scrappy, scary” Sloane Devon have to adapt and truly transform to lose their labels: “new, rookie, wimp.”  Although both girls already know how it feels to expect to be the best and to fall short, in their switched roles, they learn how to skate their way past fear and self-doubt.  In the process, both athletes discover it’s the things we fight for and struggle with before earning that have the greatest worth.  They also learn that we never know what it’s like to live in someone else’s skates.

  • Posted by Donna

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