A Matter of Heart
by Amy Fellner Dominy
Release Date: May 2015
Readers will happily sink into this emotionally grounded, contemporary young adult novel about the sudden end of one girl's Olympic swimming dreams and the struggles she endures before realizing there are many things that define who we are.Sixteen-year-old Abby Lipman is on track to win the state swim championships and qualify for the Olympic trials when a fainting incident at a swim meet leads to the diagnosis of a deadly heart condition. Now Abby is forced to discover who she is without the one thing that's defined her entire life.
I turn and head for my dad. The sun is hot on my shoulders, and bright enough to make me squint. It’s a little toasty, even for Phoenix, but at least the mornings and nights have started to cool off. Dad has edged back from the crowd and found a shady spot by the building so we can have a little privacy. He waits until I reach him, and then his arms are around me. His words are warm in my ear. “You’re only half a second off the qualifying time.” There’s pride in his voice and the sound of it runs down my spine, raising goose bumps like a standing ovation.“You know what that means?” he says. “You can qualify at State this year. That’s three weeks, Ab. We’re that close.” He pulls back, a frown on his face as his hands rub my arms. “You’re shaking, honey. You cold? Where’s your towel?”“I’m not cold,” I say. “I think I’m in shock.” I take a breath. I’m still recovering maybe, because my lungs feel too tight.Dad looks back at the stopwatch in his hand and shakes his head. I know he’s itching to get home and plot this on the chart that hangs in his office. It’s gigantic, the chart. On it he’s got all my times from every major meet since freshman year. This year, he added a side panel with qualifying times of the other sophomores across the country. This side panel isn’t about charting my personal best. It’s about me being the best.About winning Olympic gold.Maybe I am cold. I shiver again. I look into Dad’s eyes—a deep olive green, same as mine. And I think, no, I’m just happy. Dad was a world-class backstroker. He would have been where I am if he hadn’t broken his collarbone in a freak accident his senior year of high school. He never got his chance, but nothing will get in my way. I’m going to win gold for both of us.Dad’s eyes are shiny. He’s not a crier. He’s more the tough guy—work hard and don’t whine. But this wasn’t just any race. We both knew I’d need to drop time if I’m going to have any hope.“You did it,” he says. “You’re there, Ab. You keep training, and you’re one swim away from an invitation to the United States Olympic team trials.” He shakes his head, almost as if he can’t believe the words himself.I feel dizzy. Because of his words, maybe. The way his head is still moving. The way there’s cold creeping up my neck and making my head feel numb.Dizzy.I suck in a breath. My heart is trying to dent my ribs. My lungs still ache.I want to smile at Dad. This is amazing. Life is amazing. First place. Trials. Connor.Smile, Abby. Smile with Dad.Only, now Dad isn’t smiling either. He looks dizzy. No—wait. He looks worried. I’m the one who’s dizzy.Something.Is wrong.
I can’t breathe.