Olympic Memoirs, June 1, 2012

Beard, Amanda with Rebecca Paley. In the Water They Can’t See You Cry. Touchstone: S. & S. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9781451644371. $24.99. SPORTS

Now 30, Beard is a seven-time Olympic medalist, a veteran swimmer who has competed in the last four summer Olympics. She is now training with Team USA for the 2012 games in London. In this candid memoir written with Paley (Dogs 101), Beard doesn’t hold back as she chronicles her challenges both in and out of the water. Starting with her parents’ divorce and her struggles in school, Beard tells of using the pool as an outlet for her frustrations. The stories of her later battles with cutting and bulimia serve to inspire rather than rebuff. Engaging on many levels, this memoir resonates with readers by addressing real-life issues, not just those facing Olympic athletes. Glimpses of the inner workings of the competitive swimming world add interest for swimming enthusiasts. VERDICT Obviously well suited for fans of Beard and Olympic swimming, but also for general readers interested in memoirs about human struggle and triumph. ‚ Holly Hebert, Brentwood P.L., TN

Johnson, Shawn with Nancy French. Winning Balance: What I’ve Learned So Far About Love, Faith, and Living Your Dreams. Tyndale House. Jun. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781414372105. $19.99. SPORTS

Johnson has led a charmed life, bringing home a gold medal in the 2008 summer Olympics and winning the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars, all before the age of 20. Along with French (coauthor, Bristol Palin’s My Journey So Far), Johnson writes an incredibly upbeat memoir in which she catalogs her years as an Olympic gymnast while remaining a good student and weathering the difficulties of adolescence easily by trusting in God. Gymnastics enthusiasts will find interesting the segments about training with the famous Bela and Márta Karolyi. At times overly simplistic, naive, and self-absorbed, Johnson imparts life lessons that she outlines at the end of each chapter, which ensures that readers over 25 will find her book juvenile. VERDICT Gymnastics fans will no doubt enjoy the details, but this book should have been marketed to teen readers, who are more likely to appreciate the youthful tone and adolescent perkiness. Compared with Beard, reviewed above, Johnson’s book lacks depth and wisdom about real-life struggles and comes off as memoir-lite.‚ Holly Hebert, Brentwood P.L., TN