ARC Review: The Flip Side by Shawn Johnson

the flip side by shawn johnson

From gold medalist and reality TV star Shawn Johnson comes a debut YA novel inspired by her own experiences as an elite teenage gymnast—just in time for the Summer 2016 Olympic games.

Charlie Ryland has a secret.

She may seem like your average high school sophomore—but she’s just really good at pretending.

Because outside of school Charlie spends all her waking hours training to become one of the best gymnasts in the world. And it’s not easy flying under the radar when you’re aiming for Olympic gold…especially when an irresistible guy comes along and threatens to throw your whole world off balance.

Inspired by her own experiences as a fifteen-year-old Olympic gymnast, gold medalist Shawn Johnson writes a delightfully entertaining novel about chasing big dreams and falling in love, all while trying to keep it real.

Description taken from Goodreads.


I admire and respect Shawn Johnson as an Olympian, a gymnast and a representative of the United States, but she’s no YA writer. If anything, this book is middle-grade lit based on how it reads, what age the characters feel like they’re at and the chasteness of the romance.

This is a cute book, and I’ll definitely be recommending it to middle-grade kids who like more YA-oriented stuff, but this probably won’t be satisfactory for people who read mainly YA lit. If you’re looking for a YA about gymnastics, I’d direct you to Diana Gallagher’s Lessons in Falling.

Judged as middle-grade, this is a great story. It has a sweet romance, and I’m a sucker for books about kids actively pursuing their passions. Despite being somewhat immature, Charlie is driven and motivated to achieve her goals and still have a regular life. I felt like she would be a great friend to have, and her struggles with her friends were realistic and very important to the MG scene.

The writing in here wasn’t the best, to be completely honest. Once we got into the story, things eased up a bit, but in the beginning, it felt very contrived and forced. Much of it ended up being telling us repeatedly about Charlie’s life or how gymnastics works, and that wasn’t too exciting.

I was a little disappointed that Shawn’s coach, Liang Chow, wasn’t portrayed in this story, but I did appreciate all of the details about Charlie that correlated with Shawn. And this book attempts and does a reasonable job of incorporating diversity elsewhere, so that’s always a plus.

Overall, not a bad book, and one that I will be revisiting. While it had awkward or unnecessary moments, for the most part it was good, and it had great elements like Charlie’s family and her relationships. Would recommend to the right audience. 2.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 420

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