“Propulsive, transfixing, and disturbing. I could not set the book down. Harrowing and fearlessly honest, The Happiest Girl in the World is a haunting read because it couldn't have done justice to its subjects – fictional and real – any other way.” —Popsugar
One of Good Morning America's Best Books of April!
From the acclaimed author of Mercy House comes a gripping new novel about a young woman’s dreams of Olympic gymnastic gold—and what it takes to reach the top
For Sera Wheeler, the Olympics is the reason for everything. It’s why she trains thirty hours a week, starves herself to under 100 pounds, and pops Advil like Tic Tacs.
For her mother, Charlene, hungry for glory she never had, it’s why she rises before dawn to drive Sera to practice in a different state, and why the family scrimps, saves, and fractures. It’s why, when Sera’s best friend reports the gymnastics doctor to the authority who selects the Olympic Team, Sera denies what she knows about his treatments, thus preserving favor.
Their friendship shatters. But Sera protected her dream—didn’t she?
Sera doubles down, taping broken toes, numbing torn muscles, and pouring her family’s resources into the sport. Soon she isn’t training for the love of gymnastics. She’s training to make her disloyalty worthwhile. No matter the cost.
The Happiest Girl in the World explores the dark history behind an athlete who stands on the world stage, biting gold. It's about the silence required of the exceptional, a tarnished friendship, and the sacrifices a parent will make for a child, even as a family is torn apart. It’s about the price of greatness.
Dillon (Mercy House) explores the dark side of elite gymnastics in her engrossing ripped-from-the-headlines latest. Sera Wheeler is a high-flying gymnast with sights set on the Olympic team. Together with her best friend and fellow gymnast, Lucy, and at the behest of her mother, Sera all but gives up her childhood in order to train and compete. Hours upon hours at the gym, searing pain from near-constant injuries, relentless pressure from coaches, and the looming threat of aging out of the sport define her daily life. When Lucy confides to Sera that the doctor who treats her and other gymnasts has been touching her inappropriately, Sera faces a choice: if she supports Lucy, she'll be ousted from the gymnastics world by coaches and sport officials who demand complete obedience; but if she doesn't, she'll be turning her back on her best friend. Dillon's nuanced treatment makes for a stirring and complicated picture. While the team doctor is a clear villain, the national gymnastic administration, which has a history of ignoring complaints, and Sera's mother, whose desire to support her daughter's dreams becomes tied up with her own insecurities, both outwardly want the best for Sera but end up breaking her. As time and competitions pass, Sera learns to see through the constant manipulation and finally comes to terms with the decision she made. Dillon's excellent psychological drama will stay with readers.
Couldn’t put it down. Devoured in one indulgent gulp. The storytelling is gripping and the writing beautifully emotive. Absolutely loved it. Now I’m going to back to read her debut.