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Ana on the Edge

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Perfect for fans of George and Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World: a heartfelt coming of age story about a nonbinary character navigating a binary world.

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season's program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn't correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he's around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it's tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking years of hard work and sacrifice.

380 pages, Hardcover

First published October 20, 2020

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About the author

A.J. Sass

9 books219 followers
A. J. Sass (he/they) is an author whose narrative interests lie at the intersection of identity, neurodiversity, and allyship. He is the critically acclaimed author of the ALA Rainbow Book List Top 10 titles Ellen Outside the Lines, which was also a Sydney Taylor Honor Book, and Ana on the Edge, as well as the co-author of Camp QUILTBAG (with Nicole Melleby). All three books are Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selections.

A. J. is the author of the upcoming middle-grade book Just Shy of Ordinary (Little, Brown, 2024), and a contributor to the This Is Our Rainbow (Knopf Books for Young Readers), Allies (DK/Penguin Random House), and On All Other Nights (Abrams, 2024) anthologies.

When he’s not writing, A. J. figure skates and travels as much as possible. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his husband and two cats who act like dogs. Visit him online at sassinsf.com and follow him @matokah on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 269 reviews
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,703 reviews625 followers
October 17, 2020
I keep repeating myself but there's truly nothing more validating than seeing yourself in a middlegrade novel. I will never not find this so special. It will never not leave me as an emotional mess.

I've been looking forward to this book for so long and it was exactly what I hoped for. I really saw myself in the way Ana experiences social dysphoria, I felt the portrayal of it in my bones, and I cried multiple times toward the ending. I hope this book will be all this and more for non-binary kids.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,485 reviews190 followers
June 26, 2022
That was an excellent middle-grade/intermediate LBGTQIA+ novel. It never felt 'educational' as Ana explored her gender identity. When she learned about gender identity and what this might mean for her it felt natural and gentle, but also incredibly meaningful. The family and friendship connections were done well and I really enjoyed the figure skating descriptions as well. I thoroughly recommend adding this to middle grade/intermediate libraries.
Profile Image for Adri.
934 reviews804 followers
December 7, 2020
4.5 Stars

CWs: Misgendering, misnaming, allusions to transphobia and bullying, and contains multiple coming out scenes

Rep: Ana is non-binary, Chinese-American (with possibly some Hawaiian heritage as well), and Jewish

I'm so glad this book exists. It's overwhelming to think about how this story is going to affirm so many things for so many young readers, in ways we can't even imagine.

(First of all, Ana is trying out multiple pronouns by the end of this story, she/her being some of them, and those are what I'll be using to refer to her in this review.)

This is a masterfully told story of self-discovery on and off the ice. Ana's questioning of her gender is shown so organically, whether it be the mental double-take she does when her mom full-names her, or the way she hates wearing skirts during practice, or how she's intimidated by other skaters' ease in showcasing their femininity. She doesn't have the vocabulary to describe it, she doesn't know about labels or inclusive terminology, she doesn't know where to begin questioning it, but she knows enough to know that femininity doesn't quite fit.

There's also a nuanced distinction about how Ana doesn't "hate" femininity, she just doesn't claim femininity for herself. It doesn't mean "girly" things are bad or that they're not a part of her in some ways, it just means they don't define her. Ana is realizing that, yes, there are boys who like to sew and craft just like there are girls who love sports and video games. So why do we all put so much stock in "boy things" versus "girl things" when there are literally no rules?

These questions occur naturally in the story, which makes sense for a character so strongly questioning their gender. When Ana meets Hayden and realizes that it's possible for people to change their names and pronouns, she become fascinated by the implications of that and begins making space for herself to experiment with different expressions. When she realizes that her body and her personhood doesn't tell the story she always thought it would, that's huge for her.

Another aspect I love about the story is how it parallels skating performance against gender performance. There's this idea that when you get on the ice, you're "portraying a character," and then the more you lean into that role, the higher points you receive. And that's exactly how gender works as well. So Ana is wondering if she can disassociate from her performance in that way, but also questioning where to draw the line between acting and expressing, both on and off the ice.

My only note, if anything, is that I wish Ana got to take all those deeply internal thoughts about gender and put them into conversation outside of the coming out scenes. Most people, especially parents, have absolutely no knowledge of what non-binary even MEANS, which naturally leads to a lot of questions. (Keep in mind, I say this from my own experience.) But we don't really get to see that side of the conversation. Part of me is glad it's that way because I wouldn't want readers to conflate Ana's non-binary experience with "THE Non-Binary Experience" (whatever that is). But the other part of me sees it as ever so slightly idealistic.

There's just so much to love about this story. It's incredibly rich and layered, and Ana's character progression is so well done. A.J. Sass does such a good job of building a safe, supportive environment for Ana to explore herself and express herself, and even though we don't get all the answers, we are given every reason to hope for her.

Very eager for this one to come out in the fall and I highly recommend it for readers of all ages!
Profile Image for Rebecca Gibson.
9 reviews10 followers
March 9, 2019
I was lucky enough to read an early copy of this book and all I'll say is DO NOT MISS IT. Not only is it an amazing book it also contains representation we desperately need to see in fiction. Keep your eyes peeled, Ana on the Edge will take the world by storm.
Profile Image for LGBT Representation in Books.
228 reviews70 followers
March 23, 2023
Trigger Warnings: Parental abandonment, transphobia, misgendering, past death of a relative, heteronormativity, coming out, past bullying, social dysphoria

Representation: Chinese-American, Jewish, Gay, Vegetarian, Nonbinary

Ana on the Edge is a middle grade contemporary about twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion. Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success, despite learning that next season's program will be princess themed.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn't correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he's around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it's tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking years of hard work and sacrifice.

This was a great read! I honestly didn’t even mind that it was a middle grade read. I loved the simplicity of the storyline which beautifully juxtaposed the complexity of searching for one’s identity. I loved how the author used this book to educate the audience without feeling like we were being lectured. The book is a quick and easy read, with lovely characters and great examples of friendship! This is a great book for any youth looking to better understand their gender.
Profile Image for Nev.
1,025 reviews130 followers
May 24, 2021
Ana on the Edge is a really sweet Middle Grade book about a twelve-year-old figure skater figuring out that she’s nonbinary. I thought that having the story set against the very binary world of figure skating made for a lot of interesting parallels.

In addition to the commentary about gender it also allowed for showing the pressure of being a young elite athlete. Ana has to move to a new rink, meaning she has less time to spend with her best friend, and is realizing just how much money the sport is costing her single mother. When a new choreographer gives Ana a very feminine routine, she starts to understand how uncomfortable it makes her when people see her as a girl. That on top of meeting a trans boy helps Ana to realize that she’s nonbinary. While she does start to come out to people, she’s still not sure what pronouns she wants people to use for her and tells them that “she” is okay for the time being. I thought that was a nice thing to show in a Middle Grade book, you don’t have to have everything figured out right away. It’s okay to take time to understand what feels right for you.

I felt like the book was a little bit longer than necessary. There were some scenes, especially when it came to the skating, that felt repetitive. But other than that I thought that this was a great Middle Grade story about gender identity, friendship, family, and sports.
Profile Image for Brigi.
634 reviews50 followers
September 10, 2021
I loved this book so much, I think this is such a good introduction for young readers to what being nonbinary can look like! I definitely related a lot to the character, and I enjoy watching figure skating a lot, so it was great to have a look at "behind the scenes". I'm going to use she/her for Ana in this review, as she tells most of her friends and family to continue to use those.

Ana is a 12 year old figure skater, national juvenile champion from modest background: her single mother is working long hours and teaching Mandarin in her free time, so they can afford Ana's expensive training and other expenses that come with the sport. One such unexpected expense is a choreography for Ana's free skate - as she progressed to a different category, she's now expected to perform two programmes. Unfortunately the choreographer doesn't consult the students about their likes, and so Ana ends up with a princess Aurora programme, where she even has to skate in a frilly costume - she's been performing exclusively in leggings for years.

Then Ana also meets Hayden, a trans boy who's new to the city and the rink. Due to a misunderstanding, Hayden believes Ana to be a boy, and Ana doesn't correct him because after the "princess stuff", she enjoys someone not automatically assuming that she's a girl.

I thought Ana's struggles were realistically depicted, and I really commend the author for not dumbing down the book. I think this is perfect for young and adult readers too; it addresses so many issues while still being positive and encouraging. The author's note at the end confirms it, but you can really tell he's a pro skater haha. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed it!

Rep: nonbinary Chinese-American Jewish main character, trans side character, poc side characters, gay side character
Profile Image for Shannon.
3,758 reviews175 followers
February 11, 2022
This was such a FANTASTIC middle grade story about a 12 year old non-binary figure skater trying to figure out what identity feels most comfortable and how to best communicate this to her friends and family. Highly recommended for fans of George by Alex Gino or Obie is man enough by Schuyler Bailar. There is some wonderful representation in this book: not only is Ana non-binary but also Asian American and Jewish with a single parent struggling to pay for Olympic level figure skating coaching. Great on audio narrated by Diane Chen.

⚠️CW: social dismorphia, misgendering, misnaming, allusions to transphobia and bullying
Profile Image for Anna.
1,264 reviews223 followers
April 3, 2022
Well this was perfect. I adored every single moment of this and have not a single complaint. I'm so happy books like this exist.
Profile Image for Ash Otterloo.
Author 3 books64 followers
October 2, 2020
This book is perfectly paced, friendship- and character-driven in a way that's just right for MG readers, and handles a sometimes tricky-to-explain topic with so much finesse.

Ana's character sorts through the pressure of being a gifted skater, an increasing awareness of a single mother's financial sacrifices, and what it might mean to be non-binary, including all the layered ways these things affect family and friend relationships. The author pulls us into Ana's journey skillfully, handling the complex emotions of changing relationships and gender identity with care.

On a personal note, this is exactly the sort of book I could have benefitted from as a young reader, and I found the author's personal note at the end particularly touching. 5/5, wholeheartedly recommend.
Profile Image for Andy.
2,360 reviews185 followers
April 25, 2021
This made my heart so freaking happy. This book, Ana's journey AGH I just loved it so much. As someone who is genderqueer, the dysphoria and the freedom when you find that label meant so much. I felt so hard for Ana.

Twelve year old Ana-Marie Jin is the reigning US juvenile figure skating champion, but she's not the type to wear frilly dresses. When she has a new choreographer who gives Ana a routine that's nothing like how Ana feels, she struggles to learn it and perform it how she knows she can. Then Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy whose learning to skate and it changes her whole world. But Hayden thinks Ana is actually Alex or A and a boy. Which at first is nice, but then that also begins to feel wrong. Ana doesn't how to correct Hayden and she loves being his friend.

This journey to self-discovery was so good. I love Ana and I just related so hard to this. The need to be seen as more than just female or girly or whatever stereotype that floats around people's head when they think girl. When Ana finally hears the term nonbinary, my heart honestly just cried. I don't even have words for it bc this was the best thing I've read in a while.

While Ana is navigating her gender identity, she also is juggling new friendships and maintaining old ones when she doesn't see her best friend (Tamir) as much. I loved the emphasis on friendship this book placed. It was so pure and I loved it. I loved that Ana got to discover more of herself with each of her friends and as a mentor.

Also when she cuts off all her hair, that's such a mood. I want to do that too.
Profile Image for Ms. B.
2,824 reviews35 followers
January 15, 2023
Give this one to your tweens and young teens who are looking for books about gender identity or ice skating. This is a story for anyone of any age who has ever questioned who they are. Debut author A.J. Sass offers a message of hope for young people (and old) who may feel alone, are questioning themselves or are not sure how to talk to their loved ones and friends about their feelings and/or uncertainty.
Profile Image for juliette.
320 reviews
March 24, 2021
this is such a good middle grade novel about the complexities of figuring out that you are nonbinary, and the specific stressors that can come with having that realization at a young age. ana's experience with dysphoria specifically in relation to her short skate program and the way she knew it would cause people to perceive her evoked self-reflection in me. i ruminated on how i felt when i was still heavily involved in ballet and came to the realization that the gendered culture of ballet also caused dysphoria for me even though i didn't have the vocabulary or understanding to describe it at the time. i was easily swept into the world of ana on the edge and found myself caring about all the characters, but especially ana as she reminded me of my own closeted and confused nonbinary inner child. a very sweet and ultimately positive read that i would recommend especially to nonbinary people.
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,332 followers
November 23, 2020
This was really sweet, clearly super knowledgeable on ice skating, and just a really lovely read to finally be able to give to tweens looking for themselves in non-binary MG.
Profile Image for Sara Codair.
Author 30 books56 followers
November 22, 2020
This book was beautiful and moving. I wish I could've read it when I was 12. All the details about skating were amazing, but the best part of this was Ana's journey discover Ana is nonbinary.
Profile Image for Solly.
437 reviews30 followers
February 1, 2021
Contemporary queer MG always hits me hard in the feels 😭😭 4.5 stars!

There's something special about contemporary queer MG books. They hit me in the feels differently than a YA book on the same themes would. This story about a non-binary ice skater finding herself and being embraced by her relatives and friends just makes me turn into a puddle of emotions.

I wouldn't say this book is fluffy though! It's a happy book but it also STRESSED ME OUT so much. Stories about young friends miscommunicating and struggling to be good friends makes me sweat in anxiety but like, in a good way? Sort of? I guess? I was a very awkwarf autistic tween who struggled with relationships and this gave me that anxiety all over again 😅 But with a happy ending!!

I loved that this book had a trans secondary character so that Ana wasn't quite alone in her struggles! And I loved that the book acknowledged that figuring out your gender takes time and is a journey and you can take your time figuring out your name and pronouns and everything ♡

I don't know anything about ice skating outside of watching some of it on TV when it's on but I love queer sports books. Any of them. A lot of those I read are romance but I will read any sports book with queer protagonist and that this one is an MG about a non-binary character with no romance still makes it special in my heart!!

I loved this book, and if you haven't experience the thrill of emotions of a queer contemp MG in a while, it's a good fix!
Profile Image for Aly.
2,526 reviews
February 16, 2022
I love middle grade LGBTQ+ stories! I think junior high/middle school is when a lot of kids start questioning their identities, having romantic feelings for others or watching their friends have crushes. I'm glad that kids now have some books with characters they might identify with, that show it's okay to be unsure of who you are and take time to figure things out.

Ana has been competing in girl's skating for several years and is moving up to a more competitive category. When a transgender skater mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana decides not to correct him and to try out this new identity. Ana discovers that maybe neither girl nor boy is the right fit. Could non-binary be the answer?

I liked Ana's journey to self discovery and that Ana doesn't completely decide on pronouns. It's okay to try out different ones until something fits and I'm happy Ana had people to be supportive during this time. This is a great read, with fun ice skating scenes and some cute friendships.
Profile Image for Anita McDivitt Barrios.
928 reviews11 followers
May 30, 2022
Ana is 12 and has grown up in the fishbowl of an ice rink, training for Olympic figure skating, her every move on the ice captured on video, plastered on posters, and picked apart by her coach and fans. And everyone's a critic.

She's finally achieved the skill level necessary to reach for the gold, which means her mom pays thousands for a choreographer -- and to have a particular dress made for Ana's ice-routine. Something the judges will like. Something the judges expect. When she's skating to Tchaikovsky's R&J.

She agrees to teach in exchange for no-cost time on the ice to practice. One of her students has changed their pronouns and transitioned to a different gender. It opens worlds of possibilities for Ana. When Ana's on the ice, the dress just feels wrong. Ana isn't sure she wants to embody the judges' expectations. Or anyone's expectations, for that matter. And finally it's like a lightbulb goes off. The transgender student sees Ana as a boy, and Ana definitely doesn't want the world to see and think of Ana as a girl, in a princess dress, dancing on the ice to the music. Ana wants … Ana isn't sure what. But the dress no longer fits Ana, no matter how much it cost or how tailored it is.

Unfortunately, along the way to this realization, Ana hurts an awful lot of people, including her best friend who's not Olympic figure skating material but has stuck by Ana's side for years. She feels like Ana's cast her aside for friends who are a better fit in Ana's bigger, grander Olympic aspirations. Ana apologizes for hurting her BF's feelings, and although Ana ultimately decides to use the she/her pronouns for a while longer, at the end of the book Ana learns her BF and mom don't really care what pronouns Ana uses. They're willing to do whatever Ana asks, because they love Ana. Period.

And the dress? Ah, read and find out what Ana and the BF plan to do to it. It's a great ending!

Looking for more book suggestions for your 7th/8th grade classroom and students?

Visit my blog for more great middle grade book recommendations, free teaching materials and fiction writing tips: https://amb.mystrikingly.com/
Profile Image for Katie Cat Books.
971 reviews
April 23, 2021
Middle grade. Ice skating. Gender identity.

Story: Ana is a national ice skating champion. Her entire life is devoted to practicing, competing and winning ice skating competitions. But when she makes a new friend, her life begins to get more complicated, and confusing.

Language: Recent past, California, the book features Judaism, Asian American heritage, GLBT+ characters and gender identity.

Characters: Ana is 12 years old and her life is about to change in many ways - new rink, new city, new choreographer, new costumes, new skating levels and a new job.

Loved it and read it as fast as I could. The first third is mostly ice skating world building, then gets into deeper topics in the 2nd and 3rd parts. The ending was very satisfying. Looking forward to more books from AJ Sass!
Profile Image for Emily.
622 reviews
March 12, 2021
An important book that explores a middle grade character's developing understanding of what it means to be and identify as nonbinary. Set in the world of competitive figure skating, things get complicated when Ana's choices (costumes, music, program theme, promotional materials) become increasingly and explicitly gendered. What do you tell your mom, your coach, and your friends when you discover something essential about yourself that might make it impossible to do the one thing you're exceptionally good at and really love to do? A gentle, compassionate, necessary story about identity, friendship, self-awareness, and self-advocacy.
Profile Image for Laura.
598 reviews24 followers
February 27, 2022
4.5 stars

Despite the explosion of queer MG books in the past few years, this is the first I’ve read with a non-binary protagonist! I’m so glad it exists.

I know basically nothing about figure skating, but it was fun to read about, especially from a super knowledgeable author, and especially during the Olympics!

The secrets and misunderstandings here were a bit stressful, and at times it felt like characters were upset just for the drama, but overall this is super sweet, realistic-feeling, and lovely. I’m def recommending we get multiple copies for my library.
Profile Image for Sydney.
47 reviews23 followers
August 7, 2021
sometimes the people we love form ideas about who we are that don't fit with the reality they've just discovered
Profile Image for Abigail.
148 reviews
June 13, 2021
I loved that it was about figuring yourself out and that it wasn't only about that. I already really enjoy figure skating so that was the cherry on top for this book. I was so happy to see Ana working on herself, not only in terms of her gender, but also as a person.
Profile Image for Melanie.
969 reviews19 followers
February 1, 2022
Oh my goodness I loved this adorable book so so much! Ana is working on figure skating, but the traditionally girlie routine, outfit, and music she is given don't fit her. She goes into a journey of self-discovery figuring out who she is and the nonbinary label that ends up working for her.

I really loved this journey. It was so real and emotional and even though it is a middle grade, I feel like it was very mature and dealt with Ana's problems in a very real way. I also really enjoyed the figure skating aspects of this book! I love Ana's friends, coach, mom! Also a gay figure skating coach and a trans friend! Love this one.

Content Warnings
Graphic: Transphobia and Dysphoria
Moderate: Deadnaming and Abandonment
Minor: Sexism
Profile Image for Tanya.
Author 4 books95 followers
October 12, 2020
What an absolutely beautiful book! It's clear that the author has put their heart and soul onto the pages. The prose is crisp and beautiful, the skating scenes are done authentically, and Ana's character arc is done in such a way that's believable and nuanced. I highly recommend this amazing MG book to all, especially as a family read with 8-12 kids as well as a must read for classrooms everywhere. LOVE it so much!
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