Ana on the Edge by A. J. Sass

  Ana on the Edge by A. J. Sass, Little, Brown & Co., 9780316458610, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: ARC

Genre: Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  Twelve-year-old Ana has conquered the ice and now reigns as the U.S. Juvenile figure skating champion. But with that comes change: a new apartment, a new rink, and new pressures. Her recently hired, expensive, and intimidating choreographer wants to see Ana in a skating skirt for practice (no more leggings) and envisions her as an ice-blue princess, performing to the music from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.  Ana has to reckon with the hyper-genderization of figure skating, which she finds increasingly at odds with her nonbinary identity. A chance meeting with a trans teen named Hayden opens Ana’s eyes to possibilities beyond skating as a sequined princess, and eventually she finds the strength to tell her best friend, her supportive (gay) coach and her single mom about her true self.

I thought this book was really terrific. I loved the idea of focusing on the Q in LGBTQ and putting that in the context of all the other parts of life that kids question as they pass from tween to teen. The main focus of the book is on affirming Ana’s nonbinary status, but she’s also trying to decide what makes a good friend, what kind of financial strain her expensive training puts on her mom, and what kind of skating style works for her. Author A.J. Sass was also a young, nonbinary competititve figure skater and creates a very authentic voice for Ana with just enough figure skating facts and jargon to pull the reader into this exotic world. The dialogue feels fresh and the plotting is smooth and focused. Sass also contributed a short, personal essay included as an afterword, with useful vocabulary and more about their life story. Ana has a Chinese mother and a white/Jewish (absent) dad, her new skating buddies (two sisters named Hope and Faith) are Korean-American; most other characters are described as White. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? A few side plots felt half-baked, for example, Ana’s missing dad and Jewish heritage. I kept expecting some resolution on these elements, but nothing came of them. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Students from grades 5 and up interested in ice skating or looking for books with LGBTQ+ themes. I think this book would be great for a middle school reading group. Ana’s reluctance to open up and her decision to self-advocate would make for a great discussion and the focus on nonbinary people (without being didactic or depressing) is interesting and compelling.

Who should buy this book? Elementary, middle and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 17, 2021

This entry was posted in *Book Review, *Starred Review, A. J. Sass, ARC, Ice-Skating, LGBTQIA+, Realistic fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.