By Tillie Walden
Spinning is a memoir, a deeply haunting look through the eyes of a young girl, shot through the lens of figure skating. Tillie appears as herself, having the knowledge of 12 years of competitive skating. The story thus rightly begins at the first time toe touched ice, to her abandonment of the sport in search of her more creative side (for instance drawing a graphic novel). It’s a period from grade school to pre-collage, and although a lot happens in a youth’s life over that time, Walden infuses the narrative based around a skating figure, and it somehow all falls into place.
The characterization mostly focuses around Walden’s views as an adult looking back on her childhood. She, for the most part, bares all and this gives a depth of character to her young self, whether pining over a loved one or the thrill of being on the ice in her element. With competitive figure skating, there is character momentum, a movement of sorts that drives the character in what appears to be the pivotal moments of her life, with all the fears, thrills, ups and downs in a teenagers life. Walden’s cast of characters, friends, teachers, enemies, and lovers is realistically glossed over. The supporting cast is dreamlike and surreal, with the spotlight aimed at only key characters that are almost crystal clear, the type of character that you could easily recognize from real life.
The writing is in depth and personal, so it takes a autobiographical tone, sometimes in the past tense, sometimes giving new light on Spinning’s creator. Tied together, as mentioned previously, with figure skating moves as chapter headings (and more directly, the names correspond to life situations). This provides the 12 year framework upon which the graphic novel is hung. The moves become a routine and you can almost hear the adult life coach of modern day Tillie, looking back at her younger self and pushing her from figure to figure. Being autobiographical also allows the narrative to flip between a more experienced version of the character, Tillie, who becomes fictionalized. The story in and of itself is rewarding to a patient reader (and from another reader, if you understand figure skating) and kudos must be given to Walden for an engrossing tale.
Spinning by Tillie Walden is a heartwarming tale about the ropes and rinks of life. It conveys a deeply personal message that is bound to touch the heart and warm the soul. With solid writing and a passion for the subject material, Tillie Walden serves a course that all can devour. Be you interested in figure skating, are dealing with high-school trials and tribulations or just in want of a good read, this is a prime example of what can be done within the graphic novel format.