"I was an interesting combination of nerd, tomboy, and girlie girl," Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson writes in Winning Balance. Shawn knows what it's like to be a girl who doesn't always fit in, who isn't part of the cliques, and who can't always figure out what life is supposed to mean.
She also knows what it's like to lose the gold medal everyone expected her to win—and then to win again where she least expected it.
Winning Balance might best be categorized as an inspirational memoir. With co-author Nancy French, Shawn describes her struggles and successes in finding true balance in life. This is the story of Shawn's journey from her childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, to her introduction to gymnastics, her growing love for the sport—and its competitiveness--and finally to international fame and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Along the way, though, Shawn tries to follow two competing desires—"I wanted to win, and I wanted to be just like everyone else."
My biggest quibble with the book? Since much of its promo material focuses on Shawn's 2008 skiing accident, I expected the book to address this and her recovery process more in depth. It does highlight how Shawn struggled to find purpose and direction after her win—and how the injury actually helped Shawn refocus on her priorities—but don't expect a lot of detail.
Still, I found Shawn's story to be encouraging and enjoyable. The book is an easy read, and each chapter ends with a short thought for reflection. Enthusiasm seems to win out over depth in places, but overall, I found Shawn to be an engaging role model. She talks openly about the pressures she faced and her family's attempts to keep her sane in the midst of an intense training schedule. I liked her sincerity and vision, and I would recommend this book to any teen girl to read.
For more information about Shawn's story, you can check out the site for Winning Balance, or watch the book trailer:
[My thanks to Tyndale for sending me a review copy of Winning Balance, in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.]