Penny Tangey, As Fast As I Can, University of Queensland Press, March 2020, 248 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780702262814
Vivian is an uber-competitive 10-year-old whose big dream is to become an Olympian. She doesn’t think about what kind of Olympian necessarily – just an Olympian. And so, she throws herself into long jump, swimming, and other sports, all with comical results. Her best friend Olivia shares Vivian’s dream of becoming an Olympian and together they brand themselves Olivian. But when Olivia excels at the school athletics, Vivian is left reeling, literally, in her friend’s dust.
Vivian swallows her disappointment and is thrilled to eventually discover she has a talent for cross country running. However, when the shoe is on the other foot Olivia tells Vivian that calling themselves Olivian is ‘getting a bit old’. Tangey does a great job of portraying the ebb and flow of primary school friendships, especially when a third friend Liza joins the besties.
The plot really amps up after Vivian’s family receives a devastating health diagnosis. This book is likely to evoke empathy in young readers. It will give them pause for thought about the price of ambition and the things that matter in life. A thought-provoking read.
Reviewed by Heather Gallagher