Sunday, April 26, 2020

Review: The Easy Part of Impossible by Sarah Tomp

The Easy Part of Impossible 
by Sarah Tomp
Release Date: April 21st 2020
2020 HarperTeen
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062898289
Genre: Fiction / YA / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Ria Williams was an elite diver on track for the Olympics. As someone who struggled in school, largely due to her ADHD, diving was the one place Ria could shine. But while her parents were focused on the trophies, no one noticed how Coach Benny’s strict rules and punishments controlled every aspect of Ria’s life. The harder he was on her, the sharper her focus. The bigger the bruise, the better the dive. Until a freak accident at a meet changes everything. Just like that, Ria is handed back her life, free of Benny.

To fill her now-empty and aimless days, Ria rekindles a friendship with Cotton, a guy she used to know back in elementary school. With Cotton, she’s able to open up about what Benny would do to her, and through Cotton’s eyes, Ria is able to see it for what it was: abuse. Then Benny returns, offering Ria a second chance with a life-changing diving opportunity. But it’s not hers alone—Benny’s coaching comes with it. The thought of being back under his control seems impossible to bear, but so does walking away. How do you separate the impossible from the possible when the one thing you love is so tangled up in the thing you fear most?

The Easy Part of Impossible definitely hit a little close to home having been involved in competitive swimming, and I definitely read this book with a sense of dread wondering what was coming, but the author treated the subject with great sensitivity putting the focus on Ria and her mental health.  I really enjoyed this book and thought the author did a great job with Ria's realization of how much the abuse over the years has affected her and how much she really wanted to continue diving.

First of all, I read some of the comments about the book not being realistic because there was no way that people around Ria would not realize the extent of the abuse that was going on.  My reply would be: Have you been paying attention to the gymnastics scenario and what is happening there? Thirty plus years of abuse by one man and it's only now coming to the surface, so my answer would be, yes, it's entirely possible for an abuser, especially in elite sports, to get away with it.  If you have never been an elite athlete, this is very difficult to understand, as a coach has so much power over your life.  Practices are often closed, even to parents, and even if they aren't, an athlete spends so much time training, it is very difficult for a parent so be at the training facility all of the time.  My daughter was just a provincial level gymnast and she trained upwards of 25 hours per week; who has time to be at the gym all those hours, especially when you have other kids at home?   

The author did a great job revealing Ria's toxic relationship with her coach, slowly unveiling just enough to make you realize how bad it probably was, and to what an extent Ria herself covered it up but at the same time hoping that someone would realize the bruises were something more than just from hitting the water the wrong way.  I also liked how the author showed Ria defending her coach, placing the blame on herself, which is not that unusual in abuse situations.  Sometimes it takes an outsider, like Cotton, to make you realize when something is not right.  Cotton was my favourite aspect of this book.  On the spectrum, he was a wonderful character and I loved the parts where they went caving as they were a lot of fun.  Plus, there was plenty of opportunity for the author to get philosophical there as well, which I enjoyed, without going overboard.  I've gone caving myself, when I was younger, and it just made me want to go again, although I think I'm getting too old for that kind of stuff.  

The plot was very good, although I did feel like the ending was rushed.  I'm guessing the author wanted to focus more on Ria's realization of how much the abuse has affected her current life, and how much diving actually meant to her.  Outside of the pool, Ria struggled with severe ADHD, taking medial classes, but in the pool, she was one of the best.  Through flashbacks, we are given glimpses of some of Ria's training, plus some of the abuse she suffered, although the author really only showed a bit of what she must have suffered, leaving the rest to our imagination.  There is enough though, that there is a trigger warning included with the book.  However, that being said, Cotton said it the best when he stated that no one should be hitting you, period.  Her coach had abused her so much emotionally that I think she figured she couldn't make it without him, she was useless otherwise.  A bit of Stockholm syndrome?  

Did I mention how much I loved Cotton?  What a dear, sweet boy!  He made me smile and I loved how he treated Ria. I'm not much for romance, especially in YA books, but this one was sweet and lovely.  And it didn't take over the book, for which I was grateful, as the book was about Ria and her emotional nightmare.  I'm so glad the author didn't let the romance gloss over what Ria was going through.

The Easy Part of Impossible was a sweet surprise about a young elite diver who was being physically and emotionally abused but managed to find the strength to deal with her abuser and take back what she loved.  I thought the author did a fantastic job balancing the normal things a teenager does with the much heavier topics of abuse and elite level training.  To be honest, I didn't want the book to end. And while I tend to steer clear of many YA books because of their annoying romance plots, this one was sweet. And did I mention how much I loved Cotton?  The only two things that gave me pause were the ending, which was really rushed, and the subplot, you'll know what I'm talking about when you read the book, didn't really go anywhere (I wasn't necessarily expecting a happy reunion, but something would have been nice, I guess).  Highly recommended! 


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