Updated: Nov 4, 2020
A few weeks ago, I got something awesome in the mail: Joss's book series! Today, the books finally released to the public, so here's my second post about Joss. This post is about Joss: Touch the Sky, and also contains my review of the series!
SPOILERS START HERE!
First, it's time to recap Touch the Sky:
For reference, here's the summary (Even though it didn't do the book justice): "Joss Kendrick is always looking for new ways to soar. So when her cheer team needs a new flyer, she can't wait to step up (literally). Her high-flying skills on her surfboard and skateboard make her a natural for the role. But when her skateboarding act at the talent show turns into a total catastrophe--make that a dog-tastrophe--Joss loses her confidence all around, even at the cheer gym. A big cheer competition is coming up fast, though, and her team is depending on her to nail a tricky stunt. If only Joss could trust them not to drop her. She wants to do an easier stunt, but if she plays it safe, can her team still win? And if they don't, will her team ever forgive her?"
The book begins with Joss's cheer team at Shine Athletics performing for their families. After the performance, Joss is satisfied, but Reina, a senior cheerleader who's also Joss's brother's girlfriend, tells the girls that there's a SoCal Cheerleading competition coming up in October, and Shine Athletics hasn't won the competition since she was Joss's age. Joss then becomes determined that her team will win the competition.
After the competition, Joss and her friends Sofia and Brooklyn prepare for their school's talent show. Every year, when a person wins the talent show, they get a trophy and a spot on the school's 'Wall of Fame'. Both Dylan and Liam made it on there, and since Joss is a fifth grader, it's her last chance to make it, so she's determined to win the talent show with a skateboarding act. Joss and Sofia think about featuring Murph in the act as well, and they eventually realize it's a pretty good idea.
At cheer the next day, Joss is told about Shine Athletics' #1 rival in the cheerleading competition: Fury Athletics. (Cue my Marvel fangirling here.) They always win the competitions... and are pretty much the reason why Shine hasn't won in ages. But Mila, another cheerleader, accidentally hurts Lauren when she's practicing, and Lauren becomes out of commission for the competition... which hurts, since she was supposed to be a flyer with Mila.
This means that the flyer spot in the competition is vacant, and Joss is asked to fill in. She's a little nervous, since she's never done anything like it before, but she accepts. Even though she's not the best at it at first, she eventually gets a little better with the help of Brooklyn and her other friends on the cheer team, Cassie and Lilly.
Later, it's the day before the talent show, and Murph still doesn't know how to skate on the ramp- and the kids at school think Murph will be doing a 360. Instead of shutting down the rumor, Joss and Sofia try to train Murph.
Brooklyn ends up helping them, giving treats to Murph to keep her on track. Even though she doesn't learn the 360, Joss and Sofia are pretty satisfied, and they invite Brooklyn to the talent show so she can help Murph out.
But the talent show turns out to be a disaster. Joss and Sofia start out pretty well, but Murph gets nervous. Sofia helps Murph out a bit, but once Murph stops, Brooklyn bursts onto the stage, cheerleading to distract everyone as they demand Murph to do a 360. Stressed out, Murph runs off the stage, which embarrasses Joss. To make matters worse, some girls from Fury Athletics perform their cheer routine: one that has all the moves that Shine knows right now. Joss ends up winning the talent show, but as a 'comedy act', which causes her to be a little mad at Brooklyn.
To lift Joss's spirits, she and Liam go to Shadow Rock, which is a rough surfing spot that Liam and Dylan sometimes go to. It's Joss's first time, and she's sure that she can do it since she's really good at surfing on the beach and everywhere else she goes.
But she wipes out, falling in the middle of the ocean. This, as well as the talent show failure, pretty much shatters Joss's confidence. She feels as if she can't do anything right...
Her unease translates into not being as motivated at cheer (or anywhere), even falling at the cheer gym when she tries to do her finishing move as a flyer. She thinks she can't do it at all... so she asks to try to do a easier move, even though she knows that if she does so, Fury will win. She feels really awful about all this, though, and her teammates get mad at her...
After cheer, Murph goes missing. Joss, her brothers, Sofia and Reina go out on a hunt for her. Once Joss finds Murph, she takes a moment to reassure her, saying "I'll always protect you when you're scared. That's what friends are for, right?" She then realizes that she needs to tell the people she trusts the truth: about her fear of failure and messing up the cheer routine.
Once Joss confides in Sofia and Reina about her fears, they tell her that's it's okay to mess up: but she should trust her teammates, since working as a team is important in cheer. Reina then figures out a way for Joss's team to have their sleepover before the competition to bond and gain the trust they need to win.
At the sleepover, Joss apologizes to Brooklyn for getting mad over the talent show, and confesses to the whole team that she wanted to change the cheer routine because she was scared of failing ever since Shadow Rock. The girls respond to this with their own fears, but they turn more into jokes as the stories go on and they realize that everyone has their own time they felt scared. After pizza, the girls play a game where they have to fall into the other's arms: 'trust falls', to help Joss overcome her fear of accidentally slipping up. It works, and soon enough, it's the day of the competition.
Right before they perform, Joss asks if she can do the harder move, since she has her confidence back. She ends up doing it, and feels great about it. But then Fury Athletics does something even harder: and they end up winning the competition. Even though Shine Athletics only won second, Joss still feels awesome: because her team tried the hardest, and that's all that matters.
*SPOILERS END HERE!*
Alright, it's review time.
To be completely honest, I was kind of nervous when I read the descriptions at first. I knew they'd be better than Blaire and Tenney's books, but I was still a little uneasy at how small her problems seemed at first. I know not every girl has to deal with divorces, severe bullying and a trifecta of disabilities like me, but being dared to join the cheer team and not winning the talent show seemed like little dents in the road called life to me... not GOTY-worthy (but anything can be a GOTY story now that wedding doll happened...)
But not only did these books exceed these dismal expectations, but they shattered them. Yeeted them off a cliff. United-States-of-Smashed them.
Jocelyn Elizabeth Kendrick is my fourth favorite Girl of the Year of all time.
Why, you may ask? Well, let me explain.
First, let's get this obvious point out of the way: DISABLED REPRESENTATION. As many of you guys know, I am a huge advocate for positive disabled representation as a disabled girl myself (even founded my own doll company of dolls with disabilities!), so I was thrilled when I found out that Joss would be the second Girl of the Year with a disability (after Gabriela, my number two favorite GOTY) and the first one with a visible disability. Obviously, there are lots of people that turn their disabled characters into stereotypes and make their disability their only character trait. But Joss is a surfer/cheerleader/skateboarder through and through, though not in spite of her condition- her differences even sometimes help her. Throughout the book series, Joss usually lies in bed at night without her hearing aid before she goes to sleep- her 'Quiet Time', or QT for short. She uses this to visualize what she wants to accomplish- whether it's a new surfing move or ways to get better at cheer. I really liked this added touch because it shows an unique experience Joss could have with her interests that she couldn't have if she was able-bodied, and enhances her character a bit. By having more interests than a typical one-or-two interest GOTY, Joss is the ultimate example of 'disability shouldn't have to be the one character trait in their story'.
Another thing I really liked in Joss's series were the messages that each book presented.
In her first book, it's mostly about Joss learning to embrace cheer and the fact that she can be both a surfer and cheerleader. Even though I don't cheer or surf, I totally could relate to her struggle to not be reduced to one aspect of her personality despite what everyone else thought. I often mention other things I'm into on here whenever it fits because it makes my blog more 'me'- if there's a Miraculous, anime, Marvel, filmmaking or whatever reference on here, it's because it's what my last brain cell thought of to put on here. I sometimes get comments telling me to "stick to AG" and "shut up about Miraculous" and "no one wants to hear about Marvel". But I never listen to them- because I know that if I did, the blog wouldn't be 100% authentic to myself. (And besides, I keep my fangirling to a minimum, and link to what I'm thinking about sometimes.) If a 14-going-on-15 year old struggles with this (and in real life as well- my anime friends thought my AG stuff was weird at first, too!), then I can only imagine how well the target audience will resonate with it.
In the second book, the main lesson Joss learned was that you don't have to be perfect all the time- you can be open about your fears with the people you trust and overcome them at your own pace. In other words, nobody's perfect. Actually, thinking back, I think some past GOTYs could learn from Joss's story- Isabelle, Lea and Saige in particular... and I can't even imagine how many target-age kids can do so, as well. I could've used this when I was younger, too... and even now. (Still have barely gotten over that firework fear. Thanks, autism.)
Another thing I need to note (spoiler): JOSS DIDN'T WIN THE CHEERLEADING COMPETITION. What a relief. Not that I hate happy endings, but it seems like every time the GOTY is involved in some contest or sort, 9 times out of 10, they win said contest. For example, Gabriela's team won a poetry competition. McKenna made the gymnastics team with two slots open. In her movie, out of all the kids in America, Grace WON MASTERCHEF JUNIOR. Sure, Joss won the video competition and made the cheer team, but that one loss showed that you don't have to win everything to have satisfaction: just being proud of your effort is enough.
One negative I noticed throughout the book was a trope I notice that's been happening a lot lately in GOTY books: the Friend Problems trope. Blaire fought with her BFF, Thea. Gabriela fought with Teagan, Grace fought with Maddy and Ella, Saige fought with Tessa... you get the idea. Poor Joss had #FriendProblems in both books: book 1 with Sofia, and book 2 with Brooklyn. Sure, the fights were understandable from a story viewpoint (while some others weren't in the GOTY canon), but it's been occurring a lot lately. Also, the White Doll, Friends of Color trope was in full force here. Joss is white, but Sofia is Japanese and Brooklyn is African American. This is very common in white GOTY's stories... but then again, Joss is disabled, so it's 1000 times better than Blond Perfect Barbie Isabelle having only friends of color.
Overall, I'd rate Joss 9/10 and Joss: Touch The Sky 9.5/10. They are both awesome books and I would recommend them!