10 YA Books to Get You Pumped for the Summer Olympics

TumblingSummer Olympics 2016 in Rio is just around the corner, and we here at the B&N Teen Blog are prepared! Oh, I’m not exercising or otherwise engaging in physical activity or anything, but I did pound some fabulous Olympic/pro sports–themed YA in honor of the games, and really, isn’t that what being an athlete is all about? No? Eh, probably too late to pick up skills on the uneven bars now, so may as well let these books do the work.

The Flip Side, by Shawn Johnson
Before I was fangirling for Simone Biles, Laurie Hernandez, and Aly Raisman, I was hopelessly devoted to Shawn Johnson, especially her 2008 gold medal–winning beam routine, so the instant I saw she was releasing a gymnastics YA (written with Red Butterfly author Amy Sonnichsen), it flew to to the top of my wishlist. Charlie Ryland is living a double life. At school, she’s spectacles-sporting Charlotte, struggling to get the grades her parents demand and joining student government in a desperate bid for extra credit. But in the gym, she’s a true Olympic contender training for trials, and she knows that achieving her goal also means blowing her cover forever. Adding to the secrecy is the fact that the Olympics doesn’t leave time for romance, but Charlie is experiencing her very first one with the sweet, popular, adorable Bobby Singh. As Charlie navigates the tough decision-making process of what to sacrifice for her dreams, readers will happily cheer on the budding success of both Charlie and her equally success-bound fellow gymnast BFF. (For more YA copenned by a gymnast, check out the Go-For-Gold series by Dominique Moceanu and Alicia Thompson.)

Goldfish, by Nat Luurtsema
Lou and her best friend, Hannah, are one trial away from Olympic training for the UK swim team. But after Lou comes in dead last to Hannah’s first, only one of them is headed to the future they dreamed about. Lou is left to figure out a life without swimming…until a strange request from three of the hottest guys at school pulls her right back in. The boys are desperate to get on a new reality show for talented amateurs, but their dancing isn’t enough to make them stand out. So when they see Lou doing some fancy underwater aquatics, they decide she’s the solution to their problems—and she realizes they might be the solution to hers. Training three not-so-talented swimmers on synchronized swimming in a fish tank isn’t exactly how Lou thought she’d be spending her time, but as increasingly panicked missives arrive from Hannah, it seems she’s not the only disillusioned one. The story of a girl losing her dream may be a sad one in theory, but this is accompanied by some very legit laughs. (For another great “end of a competitive dream” narrative, try Up to This Pointe, by Jennifer Longo.)

Hoops, by Walter Dean Myers
Olympic basketball doesn’t get quite the same attention as the NBA, but in fairness to the USA, the near-constant winning gets kinda boring eventually. (Too early for trash talking?) Lonnie Jackson’s going for a slightly smaller prize than Olympic gold—the win in a citywide tournament of champions—but it could also be a stepping stone on the way to a very real future as a pro basketball player, if he abides by the experience-based wisdom of his new coach, Cal. When both of them are put to the test, Lonnie will have to make a tough choice that could affect his fate forever. (Get more basketball skills with high stakes in The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander.)

Tumbling, by Caela Carter
If you’re looking for a book that feels like actually watching Olympics trials (and, may it rest in television peace, Make It or Break It), Carter’s latest YA is the perfect choice. It follows five different gymnasts dealing with exactly the kind of issues you’d expect from a book about teenage girls striving for perfection in the public eye who’ve given their entire adolescences over to training their hearts out for exactly this moment. They’ve turned over their bodies, their identities, their romantic lives, and even their friendships to be the best, and as the two-day trial progresses, be prepared to pick your faves, hiss at the competitive tactics, and let out a breath as the answers unfold to who’ll be making it and who may be done for good. (Stick around in the world of elite gymnastics with Julie Cross’s Letters to Nowhere.)

Game.Set.Match., by Jennifer Iacopelli
I know absolutely nothing about tennis, but there’s no question Iacopelli does—her authority is all over her debut novel about the Outer Banks Tennis Academy (OBX), an elite training facility where everyone’s in competition for titles, attention, and affection. Penny wants nothing more than to win the French Open, and she’s got a decent shot…if British import Alex doesn’t distract her. Jasmine’s parents are among the best who’ve ever played, and living up to those expectations isn’t made easier when her romantic life is cut off before it starts. Indiana’s the new girl, and her skills are already putting a target on her back and drawing the eye of Jack, who’s not only her biggest competition’s agent, but also her older brother. These girls play to win, on and off the court. (Continue the story with sequel Losing at Love, and up your game with Girl Against the Universe, by Paula Stokes.)

Shop all Books for Teens >

Follow B&N Teen Blog