This didn’t feel like romance book. This felt like a look at the kind of dedication it takes to be great at something. I think there’s a lot of things that this book is, but a romance book? I would probably say not. It felt like a book about figure skating that also ended up with a 5 minute romance thrown in at the end. And I know what you’re thinking “slow burn” but there’s a difference between slow burn, and leaving the romantic tension out a book until the last 200 pages or so. It’s a little like the equivalent of pushing two characters together when they act much more like siblings or very close friends. Kind of like if people tried to push Rey and Kylo Ren together… Oh wait, THEY ALREADY HAVE. So it’s not that I dislike slow burns. I LOVE slow burns, but the lack of romantic tension in the story led me to question if this was actually a romance book more than once—and no, that is NOT a good sign.

I could tell Zapata was setting up the romance factor. Almost exactly 200 pages into the book Ivan asks, “Can I use your bathroom?”while dropping Jasmin off at home. In the most blatant attempt at getting invited for dinner. And then on page 256 Jasmine is having a really hard time after her mother is involved in a car accident and doesn’t call her. Jasmine is pissed off and decides to go and figure skate to work on frustration and steam. Ivan finds her there and when she’s overdoing it he makes her stop and cheers her up with some hot chocolate.

Jasmine becomes a bit more aware of Ivan, physically, throughout the book from them knocking knees during the interview on page 145 to Jasmin actually kissing Ivan on his chin and reaching for his hand after page 300. Jasmine compartmentalizes a LOT so maybe that’s why it felt like the romance factor wasn’t really there. She had a lot of feelings, and then just shoved it in a box—but we never see her examine or ponder those feelings any closer. She acknowledges that they’re best friends somewhere in the middle of the book and they begin spending “7 days a week together”. So, as it turns out, we don’t really know that she’s thinking romantic love until she admits it on page 448, (roughly) 75 pages before the last page of the epilogue. 

As a result, It just didn’t feel like a romance to me. A lot of the typical romance scenes were there, sickness, comforting, convenient naked scenes. But they were all coded as friendship in my brain because I couldn’t really tell what Jasmine was feeling. It felt like Ivan was pretty attached to her, but there wasn’t any tension to this and because Ivan became attached to her a lot faster than she did, I kept waiting for Ivan to announce she was a childhood crush all along or something. 

The first time I felt a hint of romance was when Ivan comforts Jasmin after her dad lectures her for choosing something more “practical”. Even though Ivan comforts Jasmine after her mom’s accident 200 pages before, this felt like the BIG moment for them, where they really start to become closer emotionally. But 393 pages into the book is too late for me to consider a romance. Especially when it’s a 500 page book. The good news is that once they do acknowledge their romance thing going on, they are really cute and have a lot of chemistry. They do seem to understand each other on a level other people might not. By the end of the book, they communicate with looks and body language that require an emotional intimacy. Their relationship becomes a lot more complex and I loved that we got to see this side of their relationship, I just needed it much earlier than when I got it.

Honestly, I love the way the ending is handled, that winning no longer is the most important thing to Jasmine. I think the character arc was very complete and we end the book with the feeling that Jasmine truly has grown in a deep emotional way. Somehow, even after 400+ pages of build up and Jasmine insisting the only thing she needs to be happy is win— the ending emphasis that Jasmine and Ivan are together, and not what they place is executed surprisingly graceful and successfully. There’s this feeling that Jasmine’s main arc is to prove to herself, family, and the figure skating world that she still has it and prove that she can still win a medal. But in the end, it’s to value the people who love her and she loves, and to open herself up to trusting people—which is why the ending feels so satisfying. Because all along, this book is about Jasmine’s emotional growth, not her physical ability to win medals.

Random stuff I didn’t have enough evidence or stuff to say about:

  • Ivan doesn’t really have a character arc and that seems… unfair. He’s just a supporting role while Jasmine’s character goes through all the growth. Which is frustrating, because he seems just as jaded about her at the beginning as she is about him. Maybe because the book is from Jasmine’s point of view we don’t really see his “come to Jesus moment” like we see hers. But we never really see when he changes his perspective on her. Not like a time where he acknowledges, “Hey you’re not as bad as I thought.” The way he acts, it’s like he knew she was a good person deep down all along, which would be consistent with a childhood crush thing—but I digress. There’s just not continuity when it comes to how they grew up.
    • There’s a part where Ivan talks about how he had to watch reality TV to know how to talk to people on page 273, and he talks about how some girls took pictures of him naked. These are both GREAT weaknesses for him to have and for him to have to deal with somewhere in the 508 page book I read. But there’s nothing.
  • The friendship thing with Karina never gets resolved… BOO
  • The whole thing with her mom doesn’t get resolved. She has this immense about of guilt about how she’s ‘ignored’ her mom. And Ivan says, “Yes, we’ve all had to sacrifice time with family—but your mom knows you love her” but that’s all we get. So I guess just because Ivan said it the problem gets to go away? Knowing Jasmine, it seems a lot more likely her character would actually take responsibility and talk to her mom about this whole thing. It just seems… incomplete.
  • Jasmine’s inner monologue is a little… intense… and also kind of aggressive. So that took a bit getting use to as well and I can’t say I loved it. If all of Zapata’s heroines’s inner monologues are like the writing in this book, I can’t say I’ll be reading another one.