Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner

Tags: middle grade, ice-skating, competition


Claire Boucher loves two things: her family’s maple syrup farm and competitive ice-skating. So when she gets the chance to train at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Facility with a world-class coach, she is simultaneously terrified and excited. Making the commitment to the sport involves sacrifices—time with her family and best friend, long commutes several days a week—but it’s also a dream come true for her.

Or is it? The more Claire immerses herself in the competitive ice-skating world, the more she realizes how cutthroat it is. Some of the girls who train with her would do almost anything to make it big, and Claire must decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice for her ice-skating dreams.


If all middle grade were written as well as this, I think I just might read middle grade forever. Kate Messner’s second novel is just as fun, heartfelt, and engrossing as her first. It sent me in ecstacies of delight over how much I loved it!

I don’t know much about either collecting sap or ice-skating, but SUGAR AND ICE made me wish I were Claire. She is a delightful protagonist, full of love for her friends, family, and passion, but also young enough to experience the vulnerabilities of dealing with new situations. Her love for ice-skating is so inspiring—Kate Messner describes the skating scenes beautifully—that when she is knocked down by the cutthroat attitude of the ice-skating world, it breaks your heart. I constantly wanted to reach into the book and help Claire out a little: no, don’t listen to that girl, she’s just jealous of you! Skate for yourself and forget about how others might be judging you!

Supporting characters are colorful and varied. In particular, Tasanee, Claire’s good training friend, is Asian, and likes to read popular paranormal YA. A character--and author--after my own heart. I dare you to go into this book and try to figure out which books she reads. So the friends are well-developed, but the mean girls, to my delight, are, too. There’s a reason why people turn out mean, and in SUGAR AND ICE we see the different ways that meanness can exert itself, and what drives the girls to desperate measures.

Overall, SUGAR AND ICE is just so wonderfully heartwarming and real, I have lost my ability to put into words how much I loved this book. It will remind you of the best and worst of middle-grade girls without the pettiness that sometimes crops up in this age group. Readers of all ages will fall in love with Claire and Kate Messner’s writing!

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 5 out of 5 - Kate gets the most incredible, artistic covers. This perfectly captures Claire's passion for ice-skating and her family's maple tree farm. The cover just radiates all this warmth and good-feeling.

Walker Books / Dec. 7, 2010 / Hardcover / 288pp. / $16.99

ARC picked up at BEA. Thank you, Walker Books, for this treasure!!


  1. I would've loved to read this when I was younger! Back when I ice-skated I picked up every ice-skating book I could get my hands on.

  2. Thanks for the great review. I was just looking for new MG books to add to my classroom. I will definitely have to get a copy of this; I love the sound of this one!

  3. This sounds lovely! I do like to read some MG every now and then to mix up the YA reading a bit, and most of my all-time favourite books would probably fall into this age category too - 'Ballet Shoes' and that kind of thing. I'm definitely thinking I need to look out for this one.

  4. Wow, this sounds awesome! I love ice skating- can't wait to read this. Great review :)

  5. While I don't read too much MG (aside from Chains and Forge) I think I would have really enjoyed this as a younger reader. I'll have to hold on to this title in the event of knowing somebody who needs MG recs.

  6. Sounds absolutely cute!! :)
    I think I'm going to add t to it to my To-Get list.


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