Reviews for Going for the Record
...Swanson paints a compassionate and authentic portrait of a teen facing a parent's death without sugarcoating the painful dying process or a family's struggle to cope. From the initial denial, through the anger at a life and routine disrupted, to the strength and support of a loving family in crisis, each chapter, each character rings true. Without being sensational or maudlin, Swanson's novel is real: it's deeply sad and often painful to read, but ultimately hopeful and uplifting.
-- Booklist, *starred, boxed review, September 2004
Leah Weiczynkowski is a promising soccer player with Olympic aspirations. The summer before senior year, she learns that her beloved father has pancreatic cancer and only three months to live. Called "obsessed with soccer" by her mom, Leah isn't interested in parties, shopping, or hanging out with friends, and she regards Clay, an attentive male classmate, as a soccer trainer, not a boyfriend. She practices her sport intently and awaits phone calls from college coaches eager to recruit her. As her dad's illness progresses, the teen begins to feel selfish and guilty when family needs threaten to interrupt her schedule. Her first-person narrative conveys emotional vulnerability and growing self-reflection. Part of an extended Catholic family, Leah is comforted by her grandmother, who talks about the power of prayer. Her father's inexorable decline, including the arrival of hospice workers and a hospital bed in the sunroom, is portrayed with realism and pathos. With his death, Leah comes to recognize that soccer is just a game, that her relationship with Clay is important, and that what really matters is to make a difference in the world. This powerful novel leaves the outcome undefined, but there is no doubt that Leah has grown inestimably in her understanding of the value of relationships, in her ability to accept and grieve her father's death, and in her resolve to move ahead with living. A first-rate debut. Gr 7 Up
--School Library Journal
…Going for the Record combines the best of sports excitement with a heart-wrenching family crisis. Leah (often known as Weez) is 17, in the summer before her senior year in high school. She has been driven for years by a love of soccer and a fiercely competitive nature, determined to get a college athletic scholarship and be good enough for the Olympic team and for the World Cup. And she is good. The story begins as she is heading for the junior national team, with coaches from the top colleges calling her. At the same time, at the height of this excitement, her father discovers he is dying of cancer. …Swanson is adept at portraying the nuances of emotions, the up-and-down nature of grief and acceptance of loss.
Anyone who has gone through the loss of a loved one and the hospice experience will recognize the authenticity of Swanson’s detailed accounts of illness and death. Those readers who can’t imagine how this feels will understand more after reading this story. …there is a lot to absorb in this fine YA novel...
--Kliatt, July 2004
Perhaps more powerful than Both Sides Now (Henry Holt, 2000/VOYA June 2000) this coming-of-age spiritual journey is a realistic, sensitive look at a strong family with deep faith, forced to make wrenching, practical decisions. Requiring a mature audience, it challenges each reader to consider the balance of his or her own life. Every counselor and hospice worker should have a copy.
--VOYA, October 2004
…An unusually competent first novel, this story provides a convincing chronicle of growth and coming of age through loss. Julie’s voice is lively and her emotional responses complex and sometimes surprising. The descriptions of the changes her father goes through and of his visible losses and suffering are told with authenticity, boldness, and accuracy. …A good read and a good book for engaging young people in conversation about the course of cancer treatment, hospice, death, and grief.
--New York University Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database
…this intense story portrays a father’s death in painful detail, balanced with a sense of hope. Convincing relationships and character development… …conveys the feeling that death approached with love and courage can strengthen a family. Religious elements including prayer, so often absent from YA works, blend in smoothly, while Leah’s soccer games provide relief from the intensity at home. …those seeking an honest portrayal of death will find it here.
--Kirkus Reviews, April 2004
This is a brilliantly written book, a tough, painful, yet beautiful tale of a girl who desperately loves her father, desperately loves soccer, and loses both as she watches her dad die.
The characters are vividly depicted, and Leah's voice is achingly real. ...Swanson is a talented writer with a gift for bringing scenes to life.
--The Whispered Watchword, April 2005
This five hanky book is not maudlin but is a realistic and sincere look at life while losing one’s beloved father. A skillfully done debut novel.
Friday, June 20 is the best and worst day of Leah Weiczynkowski’s life. Having just made the Regional Olympic Developmental Program’s soccer team the summer before her senior year, she is on top of the world. Soccer is not only her life, it’s the map to her future. But it all comes crashing down when her dad arrives late to pick her up from development camp and tells her the bad news—he has pancreatic cancer. He has three months to live. He’s dying.
While Leah’s story is a real kick-in-the-guts and Swanson pulls no punches in the gritty telling, at the same time she offers readers a guide for coping with the suffering and the hope of life after death. This is a beautiful saga of love, loss, and the triumph of the spirit…
--Peggy Tibbets, Readers Room.com