Saturday, November 14, 2020

"Ana on the Edge"

A. J. Sass (he/they) is a writer, editor, and competitive skater. A long-time figure skater, he has passed his U.S. Figure Skating Senior Moves in the Field and Free Skate tests, medaled twice at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, and currently dabbles in ice dance. Sass lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his boyfriend and two cats who act like dogs.

The author applied the Page 69 Test to Ana on the Edge, his first novel, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Ana on the Edge is near the beginning of chapter 7. It is set during the first evening that main character Ana, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, will be assisting with her new rink’s skate-school classes in exchange for free ice-time for her own training. Ana is having a conversation with the skate-school director, Corinne, about her new responsibilities as a class assistant. At the beginning of their conversation, Ana has the following thought: “If Corinne is the director, that means she’s a big reason I get free ice-time.” Near the end of the page, Corinne makes a request: “We’re lucky that someone so accomplished is giving back to our community. I also hope you might consider performing in our end-of-session recital …” Readers who are curious whether or not Ana agrees to perform will have to read on to page 70.

I initially felt that the test failed for my book because this page is largely a setup for Ana learning there is a skate-school student who uses a different name and pronouns than what is on the class roster, which occurs just a couple of pages later. There’s nothing interesting about learning the ropes of assisting with skate-school classes, right?

But after I sat with it and reread the page a couple of times, I’ve come to a different conclusion. Because this page highlights one of the major conflicts throughout Ana’s story: finances. Ana is a rising star in an incredibly expensive sport that her single mother works hard to pay for. Affluent athletes don’t need to volunteer their time teaching group classes in exchange for free ice to train on. They don’t have to consider taking a skate-school director up on her request to consider performing in an end-of-session recital, which also takes precious time away from training. While we really only get that one line of Ana’s thoughts, I think it’s enough to pique some readers’ interest in wondering why twelve-year-old Ana feels the need to help pay for her training in the first place. Reading the rest of the book will give them that answer.

Ultimately, if all readers know about this book before reading page 69 is based on the skating-centric cover, this page fulfills the expectation that this book will focus on that particular sport since it discusses not only Ana’s training setup but a potential obstacle to having enough time to train. For readers who’ve read the inside dust jacket flap and know that the story also explores gender identity, this test might fail, however, as page 69 doesn’t address any aspect of Ana’s internal identity. The test’s success is really subjective, like so much else in the world of literature (and the world of figure skating, for that matter!).
Visit A. J. Sass's website.

--Marshal Zeringue