Title: The Catch
Author: Kat Helgeson
Category: YA Contemporary
Publisher/Date: Four of Us Books/3 February 2018
The ability to perform daring and difficult tricks on the flying trapeze makes seventeen-year-old Vivi Montgomery a star in her summer circus program, but her days in the spotlight are destined to be cut short by her parents’ more conventional dreams of a college career for their oldest daughter. Vivi has no choice but to accept that this summer will be her last as a “circus freak” and try to make the most of it—pushing herself to learn bigger and bolder stunts, desperate to go out with a bang.
When the the circus director announces a way for senior students to stay with the program after high school, Vivi sees a spark of hope. But she’ll have to do more than just stand up to her parents. Because the circus only has room for one trapeze star next year, and Vivi’s competition is none other than her best friend.
From the award winning author of GENA/FINN and SAY NO TO THE BRO comes a story about dreaming big and having the courage to jump.
This book has content warnings for controlling parents and bullying.
This is one of those books that has characters who will frustrate you to no end and yet still make you love them. It’s a book about ambition and friendship, and what happens when those two things come into conflict with one another. It’s not always pretty, but it feels very real — sometimes I felt that Vivi was fully justified in her frustration with her best friend, Anna, and sometimes I felt like Vivi was being unfair to her, and the same goes for Anna. It’s very clear that neither character is completely blameless in their struggles with one another, and neither is completely at fault, either. This was also resolved in a really satisfying manner, and I enjoyed it.
The pressure Vivi feels from her parents to go to college is also very real, and quite terrifying. Vivi is in love with the circus, but her parents want her to go to college so badly that they’re scheduling college tours and interviews for her while she’s away at camp and she only finds out because her older brother ratted their parents out. The emotional toll is high, and it’s stressful enough to drive her ambition in the circus higher than it’s ever been in her life. I felt Vivi’s stress and tension through reading, and there were several moments I felt my blood pressure rise because of it.
I also really loved the way the relationships were handled in the book. One of my favorite moments in the book was when Vivi said of her and Anna “We kissed here once, before we were old enough to understand that Anna liked girls and I didn’t. It was my first kiss if you count it, which I do.” I really loved the subtle nature of this and how the concept of a first kiss is treated as just that — a first kiss. It’s not “a first kiss during which Vivi kissed someone she was attracted to,” but the first time she kissed someone. I love that that kiss was just allowed to be, and while it may not be reflective of Vivi’s sexuality down the line it’s still something that she considers important to her.
I also really loved how Ben and Vivi’s relationship was treated. They have been in their relationship long-term and are pretty secure with one another, but they still have issues in their relationship that they know they need to resolve. They aren’t perfect, but they are also supportive and trying their best to be good for one another even if they aren’t always sure how. I also really loved how they acknowledged that having feelings for other people but not acting upon them is not cheating — it’s pretty normal for some people to have feelings for people other than their partner, and I loved how they chose to be cool with this as long as they were honest with each other about it. They struggled with communication issues, but they still tried, and I thought it was very sweet.
I also thought that the ending (no spoilers!) was very satisfying and touching. It felt like the right way to end the book, and I left the book feeling content after reading it.
If you love ambitious, imperfect female characters, competitiveness, healthy relationships, and summers at the circus, you’re going to love this book.
Final rating: 5 of 5 stars