Keeping Pace

Keeping Pace
Age Range
Release Date
April 09, 2024
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Grace has been working for years to beat her former friend Jonah Perkins’s GPA so she can be named top scholar of the eighth grade. But when Jonah beats her for the title, it feels like none of Grace’s academic accomplishments have really mattered. They weren’t enough to win—or to impress her dad. And then the wide, empty summer looms. With nothing planned and no more goals or checklists, she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be working toward.

Eager for something to occupy her days, Grace signs up for a half-marathon race that she and Jonah used to talk about running together. Jonah’s running it, too. Maybe if she can beat Jonah on race day, she’ll feel OK again. But as she begins training with Jonah and checking off a new list of summer goals, she starts to question what—and who—really matters to her. Is winning at all costs really worth it?

Engaging and heartfelt, Keeping Pace is about wanting to win at all costs—and having to learn how to fail.

Editor review

1 review
Confusing emotions
Overall rating
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What worked:
This story follows the emotional ups and downs of Grace’s life as she prepares to enter high school. As the synopsis states, middle school found her obsessed with trying to out-perform her former best friend Jonah only to finish second to him for the highest academic award. Then, Jonah informs her that he’ll be attending a different high school in the fall so Grace won’t have a chance to continue their rivalry. He’s won! Grace is so fixated on beating Jonah that she doesn’t realize how it’s affecting her social life. Her cousin Avery stops inviting her to hang out with their friends since Grace almost always says she’s busy studying for an exam or working on a project. She’s so consumed with defeating Jonah that maybe she’s failed to notice they might be friends.
The confusion created by adolescent hormones and tricky relationships with other people are very common at this age and Grace finds herself thrown into the thick of it. Jonah starts to become a little less annoying and Grace allows him to run with her. They chat during their workouts without upsetting each other and they’re able to reveal feelings and experiences they’ve kept hidden. Grace and Avery have always been super close, they were born only a couple of days apart, but Grace wonders if entering high school might change their connection. Grace begins to notice Avery is hanging out with other people at the pool and she’s worried she may be losing her cousin. Also, Avery has a new boyfriend and is busy with high school soccer practices which leaves less time for her to hang out with Grace. Can their relationship withstand the new challenges?
Grace and Jonah don’t have fathers living with them but for different reasons. Grace’s parents are divorced and her father has been dating another woman. Grace is hurt that he doesn’t have much time for her anymore and babysitting his new girlfriend’s son will be a new experience. Grace’s mother and sister are “two peas in a pod” which leaves Grace feeling like she’s the odd person out. Jonah’s father died around the same time Grace’s parents were splitting up and he’s still dealing with the emotional loss. Grace wants to be supportive since they were once best friends but their past battles and teasing remarks make it challenging to talk about feelings. Things seem to be improving between the pair until Grace’s list of summer goals blows up in her face.
What didn’t work as well:
The focus on boy-girl relationships and running long distances may not appeal to a wide audience. However, the author captures the emotional confusion of girls at this age and the many challenging situations they may encounter. The running parts of the story act as a thread that connects the entire plot.
The final verdict:
This book should appeal to middle-grade girls as it addresses a variety of common experiences. The death of a parent or divorce is caringly included along with the potentially traumatic feelings of first love. Overall, I recommend you give this tender story a shot.
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