Hey everyone! Here's the summary and my review of Lila Goes for Gold, the second book in her series!
This is a completely different story from Lila's journal, and picks up a few days after the end of the journal, where Lila is practicing for her first gymnastics meet. After practice, Lila has a sleepover with her best friend Katie, who shares with Lila big news: she's joining Aberg's Gymnastics and the competitive team! Lila is confused at first - Katie didn't want to join a competitive team - but Katie missed Lila enough to try it out. On Katie's first day at the gym, Coach McKenna tells the team that Lila isn't ready to join the Gold team yet and proposes a mock gymnastics meet in four weeks, where Lila will compete on Gold and officially join the team if she does well. However, Lila and Katie hang out together at practice and goof off, to the annoyance of Lila's serious teammate Avery. The next day, Lila and Katie visit Hollyhock at Honeycrisp Hill, but Hollyhock steps on Lila's foot and swells her toe, making her unable to practice gymnastics. Lila tries to practice and hide her injury, but McKenna notices after Lila hurts her toe while dismounting off of a beam and tells Lila she can't practice for a week. Meanwhile, while Katie practices her floor routine for the first time, Avery judges her.
Once Lila gets back to practicing gymnastics, she struggles with her floor routine, specifically her round off back handspring, and getting her beam routine right. Avery gives her tips on her beam routine, which helps, but once the mock meet comes up, Katie is more nervous than Lila. Lila does her beam routine perfectly, but still needs a spot on her back handspring. Lila places in beam and floor, making it to Gold, but Katie doesn't even place, only gets a participation medal - and admits to Lila that she doesn't like competing on a gymnastics team.
The practice after the gymnastics meet, Lila overhears McKenna telling an assistant coach, Sawyer, that she is homesick for Seattle and might leave. Believing that McKenna can't leave, Lila invites her and Katie to Honeycrisp Hill's Fall Fest, hoping that seeing horses and other animals will make McKenna feel less homesick. At Fall Fest, they meet a baby goat named Buttons, who Katie falls in love with, and try horseback riding, which Katie struggles with. Over the next few days, the differences between Lila and Katie, as well as Katie's problems with Avery, bother Lila a little bit, and she thinks their relationship will be different if they like different things. McKenna reassures her that people can like different things and still be friends, but Lila still worries, especially when Katie tells her that she believes that Lila only cares about winning and competition when it comes to gymnastics and doesn't want to do anything for fun.
This boils to a head once Katie accidentally slips that McKenna might be leaving the gym. McKenna explains that her grandma is sick and needs her, and the next practice, she is called home for a family emergency. Sawyer takes over coaching the team, but Avery offers to help more, which bothers Katie, and gets Lila and Katie into another fight. At the practice before Halloween, Katie and Avery fight over a mistake Katie made, and after Katie shares her concerns that Avery only cares about winning, Lila tries to explain Avery's side. However, Katie cuts her off, saying that Lila has become too competitive, and leaves. Lila then trick-or-treats alone, while seeing Katie with another friend from school, her heart sinking.
Lila tells her mom about what's been happening with her and Katie not enjoying the same things anymore, and she tells her that "you're not going to always enjoy the same things. And that's okay." Lila then tells her mom about what Katie does enjoy - Buttons - and then remembers that Buttons is going to be reunited with her siblings the next day after being separated from them. She asks Katie if she wants to see Buttons, and while they visit Buttons, the two friends reconcile - with only seven days left until the gymnastics meet. Throughout the next few days, the team bonds, and at the meet, Lila performs her back handspring without a spotter, places in her events, and Katie places in some events as well. To top it all off, McKenna comes back to witness Lila and her teammates's placing.
Wow. That's the first word that came to my mind after trying to write something profound about this book... just "wow". At first, the book started rather slow, and I was a little nervous that it wouldn't be all that good after being pleasantly surprised by Lila's Journal back in October. But then, everything started to pick up, and all the plot threads worked so well with each other that I couldn't help but be amazed. Of course, Lila and her world is as endearing as it was in the journal, but that wasn't the part that spoke to me the most, even though it really made the book stand out. I'd say the part that did speak to me was probably the conflict between Lila and Katie that built up throughout the book and then ended up resolving towards the end. Usually, I do rag on American Girl a lot for making Girl of the Years randomly fight with their best friends for absolutely no reason, but the execution of that concept in Lila's story, showing how it actually happened and how they were actually able to resolve the conflict, really did it for me. Showing readers that even though people might change, you can still be friends, did it for me too, in a sense - when I was around Lila's age, people didn't even want to hang out with me anymore because they grew out of American Girl dolls, and that really hurt. However, seeing that Lila and Katie could still be friends despite being different people - it made me want to time travel back to 2015 and hand this book to everyone who didn't want to be my friend anymore, lol! But that's not the point. The point is, after years of personal friendship troubles and half-baked friendship fights in the American Girl world, this book and how well it was written kind of healed my inner child. And that was pretty cool.