Review: Spinning by Tillie Walden

About the Book

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Title: Spinning

Author: Tillie Walden

Release Date: 9/12/17

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Page Length: 400 Pages


It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.

Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.

She was good. She won. And she hated it.

For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point? The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.


I finished Spinning last night and instantly wrote a mini-review on my Instagram. This is my full review, expanding upon what I wrote yesterday. In reflection since yesterday, some of my thoughts have changed, and my star rating is now lower.

Spinning is a graphic memoir, which is a interesting hybrid form that I’ve never encountered before. Graphic novels are definitely something I’m familiar with, but memoirs are a bit more of a strange beast to me. The hybrid form was definitely something that worked for me, because I feel that without the art, the memoir might have fallen a bit flat. We’ll get into why I think that later.

Spinning goes through Tillie’s life story, covering her ice skating years in both New Jersey and Texas. The story mainly focuses on her skating career and feelings about it, but also touches on her school life, friendships and her sexuality. It’s told chronologically and progresses through the years of her life.

The story is interesting and compelling, which is aided by the simplistic hand-drawn art style. I enjoyed reading about Tillie’s experiences and managed to finish the book in a day. (I know it’s a 400 page graphic memoir, but I’m also a busy college student, so I’m impressed!) It was compelling enough for me to finish it quickly, but the story was not without its faults.

My biggest complaint is the pacing of the novel. We have 400 pages to cover years of her life. While ice skating is clearly a big part of those years, there were several other incidents in the novel (two near-car accidents, sexual harassment, bullying, etc) that I feel were fairly glossed over. I would have preferred less skating scenes if we could have had more emotion or introspection about those events. For events that seemed so important (after the near car accident, she can’t jump/twirl while skating for a while, and I wanted to see how she overcame it.)

Yesterday, I gave the book 4 stars, but today I think I’ll reduce it to 3, mainly because while looking back at the book, it falls flat in some instances and wasn’t too memorable. It’s still a beautiful memoir, but I think that it could have been so much more.

Thanks for reading! Have you read a graphic memoir before? Recommend some in the comments!

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