★ KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW
A 16-year-old boxer dreams of winning Olympic gold.
Gravity Delgado (half Dominican and half Jewish) feels like she has been fighting and breaking things her whole life. However, since joining PLASMAFuel Cops ’n Kids boxing gym in Brooklyn four years ago, she has channeled her fighting spirit toward a single goal: boxing in the 2016 Summer Olympics. As Gravity arduously trains for Rio, she grapples with different parts of her identity. On the one hand, her absent father’s Dominican family provides comfort and a safe haven from the abuse and neglect her drunk mother inflicts on Gravity and her younger brother, Tyler. On the other, praying a shema before every fight tethers her to her mother’s faith. A diverse set of characters populates the boxing world Gravity inhabits, including a Ukrainian brother and sister, wheelchair user Coach Thomas, Haitian American fellow boxer D-Minus, and Kimani, a kind, large, dark-skinned man who is painfully aware of the racism in people’s fearful responses to him. Deming’s own amateur boxing career and knowledge as a boxing correspondent are clearly evident in her masterful descriptions of the grueling training process and intense bouts. Readers will immediately stand in Gravity’s corner as she battles distractions and fights against the odds in pursuit of her dreams.
A riveting pugilistic must-read. (Fiction. 14-18)
★ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW
Sarah Deming. Make Me a World, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-525-58103-1
Boxer and journalist–turned–trainer Deming (Iris, Messenger) pens a gritty, uplifting story about Gravity Delgado, “half Dominican and half Jewish,” who begins boxing at age 12 after her self-absorbed mother stops paying her karate fees. It’s free to train at Cops ’n Kids gym in Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood, and under the guidance of demanding Coach Thomas, who uses a wheelchair, Gravity trains to fight alongside boxers of myriad backgrounds and ethnicities. By age 16, she has won a pair of Golden Gloves and is a top contender for the 2016 Summer Olympics, while at home, her mother’s drinking has escalated, creating concerns about her little brother’s care. Gravity finds solace in the shema she prays before every fight and the unconditional support she receives from her aunt and cousin. At the gym, Gravity develops feelings for another boxer and is preparing to fight increasingly challenging opponents in Rio. Not only does Deming take readers into the riveting heart of amateur boxing, she does so through the eyes of a protagonist who is tough and vulnerable, relatable and intriguing. Via a plainspoken narrative interspersed with reporting on the Olympic arc, Cops ’n Kids, the boxers who train there, and Gravity’s family—related and chosen—become substantive characters themselves. The plot moves along at just the right pace to give readers a thrilling firsthand look inside a boxing ring, including psychological elements of the sport, while offering the moving, layered tale of a dedicated, dazzling young woman. Ages 14–up. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Nov.)
★ BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW
★ Gravity, by Sarah Deming
Booklist, September 1, 2019: Gravity Review
Nov. 2019. 400p. Random/Make Me a World, $17.99 (9780525581031). Gr. 9–12
“Sixteen-year-old Gravity Delgado is making her mark on world of amateur women’s boxing, with a Golden Gloves victory under her belt and undefeated status in the ring. Finding the Cops ‘n Kids boxing gym in Brooklyn was her salvation, quickly changing from a place where she could simply channel her anger at her drunk, abusive mom to Gravity’s ticket to a better life with her kid brother, Ty. Now the Olympic trials for the 2016 games in Rio are approaching and Gravity is training hard to knock out any competition among her fellow Lightweights and secure a spot on the U.S. team. Deming’s own background as a boxer, coach, and sports journalist comes through in vivid writing that slings sweat and pulls no punches. Fights and sparring matches are energetically relayed and exciting to follow, even for those unfamiliar with the sport. She also provides narrative variation by inserting accounts of fights and boxing news from a respected boxing blog that Gravity follows. Though fiercely passionate about boxing, Gravity’s love for Ty is unrivaled and their relationship is tenderly depicted. She also has her first bouts with sex and dating, which are realistically complicated and messy, but always secondary to her Olympic dreams. Readers will want ringside seats for this gritty debut title from Christopher Myer’s new Make Me a World imprint.“
★ SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL STARRED REVIEW
Gr 9 Up–Gravity Delgado, a scrappy half-Dominican, half-Jewish girl, dreams of becoming a champion. She’s been training with her gruff but lovable coach at Brooklyn’s Cops ‘n Kids with other boxers, many of whom are preparing to compete in the U.S. trials for the Rio Olympics. Gravity’s proud of her undefeated record and hopes to make a booming entrance onto the Olympic scene, but her focus is constantly at risk of being pulled in different directions—she cares for her eight-year-old brother, clashes with her alcoholic, abusive mother, falls hard for her slick-talking teammate (but has unacknowledged feelings for another), battles sleep through classes at her alternative high school, tiptoes through friend drama with another teammate, and has a bitter fight with Coach, who is her primary father figure. Deming, a New York Golden Gloves champion and boxing journalist, captures the training and fight scenes with perfection. Sexism, feminism, and LGBTQ+ topics are peppered throughout (how could they not be in a book about female boxing?) and Deming’s light touch of all the issues in Gravity’s orbit allows readers to simultaneously focus on her boxing and understand how hard she is working to overcome the obstacles in her path. Supported by realistic dialogue and a fully developed cast of secondary characters, Gravity is an honest, one-in-a-million main character with a heart of gold who readers will be rooting for from page one.
VERDICT Deming pulls no punches in this flawless debut. A recommended first purchase.