Here I am again, in love with yet another graphic novel. I know, it seems like I really love every one that I read, but I promise, Spinning is so much more than just a graphic novel – it’s a story that needs to be read. It’s beautiful and so full of emotion that you will be taken for a ride the entire time you’re reading the book.
When I first saw the cover and some sample illustrations from the book, I was really drawn to it, and found myself really excited to read it, so I was beyond thrilled when a copy of this found its way to me (thank you First Second!). I started reading it the day that I got it, and yes, I finished reading it the very same day. It was the kind of book that there was no way I was putting down until I had read every word and absorbed every single illustration. And then I went back and read it again.
Tillie Walden grew up skating since she was a small child – switching rinks and teachers, but still doing well, winning competitions, and acing tests, all the time. While it was often hard for her to really make any friends with the other skaters, she still kept on skating and moving up the ranks, even when her family moved to another state. While skating wasn’t always Tillie’s favorite thing to do, she kept at it anyway.
“Skating presented a strange debacle. I disliked the femininity of it all yet was attracted to it nonetheless.”
When Tillie’s family moves to Texas, she keeps skating, but little by little she not only loses interest in skating, but she begins to realize some things about herself, opening her up to new possibilities, but also keeping her back, as she was afraid to tell anyone what was going on with her. So although she knew for a fact that she liked girls, she chose to keep that a secret from those around her.
When she met a special girl, she can’t help but express her feelings toward her, and hopes that she will also feel the same. When she does, Tillie finally feels like there might be something good in the world for her after all.
“A first love is important to anyone. But when you’re both young and gay and in the closet, it’s something else entirely.”
While Tillie doesn’t want to talk about their relationship with anyone else, she spends her time simply loving the idea of being in love, but also terrified that others are going to find out and take that away from them.
When things between the two girls doesn’t work out, Tillie finds herself tired of hiding in the shadows and wanting to make sure that everyone knew about this side of her that she had been hiding – a side of her that had become a big part of who she was. She isn’t really prepared for some of the reactions, and of course, some of the reactions are a lot less than she expected.
When Tillie’s life starts to change, and she decides that she doesn’t want to skate anymore, she is faced with the decision on her own. Her absent mother and her disapproving brother aren’t exactly the ideal confidants, and she doesn’t even feel like she can talk to the only friend that she’s had since they moved.
“I had spent so long just letting things happen, and the idea of changing was exciting yet also completely terrifying.”
Spinning is a beautiful memoir that is more than just a romance, it’s more than just a figure skating story – it’s a road to self discovery and acceptance. It’s haunting and will warm your heart from the very core.
Even if you aren’t really into sports or skating, Tillie is the kind of girl that many can find themselves relating to. She is inspiring and tries her hardest to please everyone and herself, before finally realizing that in order to be happy, she will have to do what she needs to do without worrying what everyone else has to say about it. I think we can use a lot more awesome characters like Tillie.
The romance and Tillie’s coming out do not take center stage in the story – of course they are a big part of it that shapes Tillie into who she becomes later, but it isn’t the definite focus of the book. There are a lot of factors that work together to create this story.
Spinning is the kind of book that you intend to open up just to check out the first few pages, then you wind up reading the entire first chapter – and you just keep going. Not only was the story incredibly captivating, but the artwork that Tillie created is truly lovely – soft purple colors (as long with some neutral tones) really catch the reader’s eye and hold your attention. My own daughters came up to me a few times while I was reading this book and asked to read it with me because they loved the pictures.
Even if you aren’t typically a fan of graphic novels, I have to recommend this one. The story will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride and make you instantly love Tillie. I’ve read this twice in one week, and I can only imagine reading it again and again.