Cover Image: The Comeback

The Comeback

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Member Reviews

This is a middle grade book. I really enjoyed this book. This book is about two girls becoming friends even if they both ice skate. There is a lot about ice skating. I love the writing in this book. This book really shows how the kid feels ice skating, and it shows that it can be really stressful for them. The characters in this book is very developed. Also in this book there is what Chinese or Asian face in school, and people picking on them. I know kids can be really mean at times, and I think this book shows it really well. I think this book well be good for kids that is having issues with people picking on them. I was kindly provided an e-copy of this book by the publisher (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) or author (E. L. Shen) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review about how I feel about this book, and I want to send a big Thank you to them for that.
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Cute but rather uneventful middle grade novel about competitive figure skating. Written more as an ode to the sport this novel would have to find its way into the right hands in my middle school. There is a lot of good information on skating, but the friendship and bullying plot lines are a bit thin.
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Racism is difficult to deal with no matter how young or old someone is. Shen provides a thoughtful story about a young Chinese American figure skater's experience with racism at school and how internalizing those racist acts affects her mentally and spills over into her life at home and on the skating rink, including how she deals with a new and more talented competitor. I found the story well-written and appreciated the Asian American representation.  Maxine has the potential to serve as a role model for other Asian American girls just as Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan serve as Maxine's role models. (3.5 stars rounded to 4)
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This is a wonderful Middle-Grade story about friendship, acceptance of who you are, and going for your dreams.  It was well-written and very insightful. I thought the message about bullying and prejudices towards others that are different than you and how that feels was spot on. This is a perfect read for the age group intended.
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for the ARC in exchange for my honest review!
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Maxine Chen is a 12-year-old figure skater trying to make nationals and then the Olympics! But her confidence wavers--not just because of the new figure skater/competition, Hollie--when Alex begins to bully her for being Chinese-American and her best friend, Victoria, begins to drift away from her. The one-sided arch-nemesis with Hollie becomes a budding friendship and Maxine begins to realize her inner-strength.
This is a very touching middle-grade novel about ice skating and dealing with the pressures of middle school. There is a lot of technical language around ice skating, but it was not too difficult for non-ice-skating readers to connect. Maxine's parents are loving and supportive, which was a contrast to the pressure Hollie feels. The racism Maxine experiences is very realistic (although not subtle, that's ok, middle-schoolers are pretty blatant in their hurt) and E.L. Shen does a marvelous job of describing Maxine's emotional reaction, desire for a witty comeback, and emotional wearing down. I look forward to more from Shen!
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This has such great representation. My 11 year old daughter, while reading this, said to me, "Mom, I love when there are Asian characters in my books" and that meant the world to me.  As a competitive dancer, she was really invested in the story of Maxine and the ranking of the skaters. It definitely kept her on the edge of her seat. I loved  the friendships that were in this book and how rivals can end up as friends. That's such an important message for young girls who are often pitted against each other in competitive sports.  There's a difference between rivals vs supportive competitors and as a mother, I really appreciated that message.
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A sweet story about determination, self-love, and discovering the person you want to be. I loved the elements of figure skating. The main characters focus on heroes who represent her, not only in the sport but in life. I like how she solves her own problems but appropriately asks for help when needed.

Perfect for grades 4-6 and this would also make a good book discussion for school.
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Maxine is a fighter for sure. There are two levels of fighting going on here, one is to be your personal best and the other is fighting racial injustice. This is a great example for all those feeling like no one else is like them
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I loved this middle grade fiction book about a young Asian girl who loves ice skating. It's the perfect blend of middle school challenges (friends, bullies, identity).

Definitely a candidate for our "Summer Reads" list for students at my school.
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4.5 stars

This was a great middle school debut novel that addresses racism but is centered around figure skating. I have always loved figure skating and Maxine references several of my favorite skaters, which really drew me into the story. 12-year old Maxine Chen lives in Lake Placid and is in the middle of preparing for a major competition. She loves skating and competing, but sometimes can push herself too much. What I loved about this novel is that while her parents are strict about certain things, including homework and good nutrition, they also often check in with her to make sure that she still wants to do this. Much of the pressure on her comes from Maxine herself, which is refreshing to see in an Asian family. I am a Taiwanese American and I greatly appreciated this #ownvoices novel that doesn't just stereotype Asians. However, she experiences bullying for being Asian in the very white town of Lake Placid, primarily from a boy named Alex, backed up by his friends. Some of the stuff he says seems so stereotypical of a racist, except I myself experienced some of that when I was growing up. I was expecting The Comeback referenced in the title to refer to an ice skating comeback after a fiasco, and while there was some of that in this book, it was also about coming back from being bullied, and learning that adults can be part of your community and you don't have to fight alone. I also loved the friendship that Maxine developed and I loved the reference about friendship that her mom told her about trees growing at different rates and in different directions. Overall, I would recommend this for advanced elementary school kids, as well as middle school, especially if you love ice skating.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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I really enjoyed this book and felt it needed much more publicity then it received! It was such a beautifully written story that balanced the serious with humor perfectly. I finished it in two daysbecausei really enjoyed Maxine'svoice so much! I can't wait to purchase a finalized copy of this book!
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As a former figure skater who spent several summers training at Lake Placid’s Olympic Center, I found this book about a 12-year-old doing just that to be an utterly nostalgic delight. Of course that personal connection made the book an extra special read for me, but I do think it’s a truly lovely middle grade story for anyone. I love how the book deals with racism in schools, the experience of gaining and losing friendships, and the difficulties of being a child committed to a competitive sport. I also think that Shen does a great job sidestepping many of the issues you’d expect to be in a book about figure skating so that she can focus on issues that are just as real, but not as front and center. Plus Maxine is just a delightful character who’s both sassy and vulnerable, in a manner that feels very true to life.

I also shared this review in my newsletter (3000 subscribers) and IG stories.
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Maxine is dealing with a demanding sport, bullying in school, and losing her best friend. She meets Hollie, her competitor, who seems to have it all, but learns things aren’t always as they seem. 

This is Middle Grade fiction based in the world of figure skating. As a fan of figure skating and sports fiction, I loved the figure skating aspect and the references to the greats in the sport. The issue of racial bullying is also addressed. Overall I feel this is well written and The Comeback is referred to in different ways. There are comebacks in competition, comebacks in life, and verbal comebacks to racist comments. I feel that parents should supervise the reading of this book with kids under 12 so they can discuss the racial bullying aspect.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.
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This was a charming read that shows Maxine navigating the competitive world of figure skating. The author did an amazing job of portraying the strength in Maxine for not only competitive figure skating, but also being strong in the face of microaggressions at school. I enjoyed reading about how Maxine works through her jealousy of the new skater at the rink and how that relates to the way the mean boy at school handles his issues. This book is the perfect addition to any library or classroom.
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Sixth grader Maxine Chen is trying to juggle school, homework, friendships, and competitive figure skating. When a new, talented, figure skating rival comes to town, Maxine finds herself struggling with her emotions. When discrimination and race-based harassment plague Maxine at school, help comes from an unexpected source. Figure skating fans will enjoy this glimpse into the life of a competitive skater, making this book about friendship and self-worth a worthy addition to any middle grade fiction collection.
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What a charming little book! I don't think I've ever read a novel about figure skating, much less a middle grade one. As an added bonus, E. L. Shen provides a unique, diverse perspective in our main character, Maxine Chen. It's relatable for, I believe, all young girls in that Maxine is not only struggling with her cultural identity and the prejudices of others but is also struggling to find quality friendship and personal value. Throughout the story, Maxine comes to recognize her own potential and strength, as well as the beauty inside of herself. It's a wonderful, lovely story, and I think it would provide a good reading experience to any young girl.
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Shui dī shí chuān. 
“If you are persistent, you can overcome anything.”

E.L. Shen’s The Comeback is a wonderfully written middle grade debut exploring the complexities of what it is like to be a 12 year-old athlete trying to navigate sports, school, identity issues, home life, friends and everything else. 

You remember middle school, right? The ups and downs? The friends who find new friends, the bullying, the cliques? It can be the best of times and the worst of times and we encounter this with main character, Maxine Chen who’s passion for competitive skating is her primary focus. She is putting in the work and it shows until she begins to be the target of racial discrimination and bullying at school by classmates and a former friend. It is the. that things begin to unravel. Not only is she silently suffering at school but we see Maxine grapple with her identity and self-image. That is until she meets Hollie, forms an unlikely bond and ultimately learns to defend herself and walk into a new level of confidence. A transition that lends to learning to love and accept herself and her heritage fully. 

Thank you to NetGalley and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group for the e-Arc in exchange for an honest review!
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Maxine Chen is in many ways a typical 12 year old. She attends sixth grade at her local middle school, is navigating changing friendships, schoolwork and overly attentive parents. But she's hiding a secret: she is being targeted by a racist bully. She knows that if her mom finds out, the social fallout will be huge, so she keeps the hurtful insults to herself. On top of all this, Max is a competitive ice skater who just found out that the new transplant from Virginia, Hollie, can do higher jumps on the rink and better plies in the dance studio. Talk about pressure. Help is coming for Maxine, though, from the last place she expects.

I really enjoyed E.L. Shen's debut about racism, friendships from strange places and pursuing a dream. The references to ice skaters from the recent past were so fun to read, and I know that my students who love all that is ice skating and the Olympics will eat this one up! I really enjoyed Shen's easy writing style, well-suited to younger middle graders as well as those older. I hope to read many more from her!

Highly recommend this one for kids in grades 3 and up.

Thank you to the author and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and the author for an early copy to review.
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**Thank you to NetGalley, author E. L. Shen, and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR) for the eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**


This own-voice, middle-grade novel is an intricate maze of growing up, developing skills, experiencing life, and standing up to those who try to put others down. 

I could not put this story down and ended up reading it in one sitting. From the beginning, I was invested in Maxine's story and her interest in figure skating. She holds onto this dream of being a champion, even an Olympic, skater even in the toughest times of her skating career, but she is also realistic with her abilities and the goals she wants to accomplish. This was a great mix of determination and self-understanding. Maxine knows where she wants to be with her skating, but she also knows that day is still a few years into the future.

Maxine's character development was really dynamic and engaging to follow throughout the story, as well. Shen's use of the champion skaters to support Maxine (in her imagination) was really unique and I thought this added an element to the story that really emphasized Maxine's commitment and dedication to the sport. 

Maxine fought many battles in this story, both in skating and in school. Reading about how she develops and grows from each challenge was really inspiring and I think this book teaches some good lessons for middle-grade-aged readers. *The analogy that Maxine's mom shares about trees growing at different paces is something that I think every person should hear and apply to their lives.*

Initially, there were a few phrasings that I didn't love. One example of this was when the ballet coach tells Maxine that the move she is struggling to execute "See...Not that difficult!" This rubbed me the wrong way because this is not something that should be said to someone who is struggling with something, but after thinking more about it, I feel like it captured yet another struggle that Maxine was faced with. It is frustrating to read, but I think it shows the ignorance of how individuals can think they are doing something positive when it can actually be pretty harmful. 

I am definitely looking forward to recommending this book to middle-grade readers in the future, and I am very excited to see the final edition.

Content Warnings
Graphic: Bullying, Racial slurs, and Racism
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Thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and NetGalley for this digital ARC. 

The plot of The Comeback reads like an 80's movie--in the best way!  This is the story of Maxine Chen: a 12 year old sixth grader, a competitive skater, and one of the only Chinese people in her town.  She works hard at practice, enjoys her friends, and does normal preteen stuff like watch YouTube make-up tutorials. But Maxine has to contend with a bully, a racist bully. While she works to keep his racist comments a secret, she also tries to alter her looks to make herself appear less Chinese. At the same time, the new girl in town is a better skater than Maxine. All of this adds up to more pain than a 12 year old should have to deal with. With the right amount of tension and triumph, this book had me feeling all the excitement and horror right alongside Maxine.
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