Fast Girls follows three women who compete in track and field events in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The book starts back in 1928 with the Olympics in Amsterdam and was the first time women were allowed to compete in some of the track and field events. Betty Robinson is one of these women. She won gold for America and opens the door for a new generation of women athletes, but suffers a serious accident that puts her career at risk. We also meet Helen, an outcast farm girl from Missouri who finds a sense of belonging on the track. Finally, there is Louise Stokes, one of the few black girls in her New England town, who sees running as a way to prove herself just as worthy as her white teammates. All of these women work hard to earn their spots in the 1936 Olympics, but when they arrive in Nazi controlled Berlin, they realize their struggle isn’t over just yet.
I loved the structure of the book. The alternating viewpoints were written in short chapters so it was easy to remember where each story leaves off when you return to it. Hooper also added imaginary telegrams and newspaper articles which I thought was an interesting way to show us events happening “off screen”. It also adds to the atmosphere and helps immerse the reader further into the 1920s and 30s. There is an author’s note at the end of the book which serves as both an epilogue for the characters and a space for Hooper to explain which parts of the book were more fiction than fact which I always appreciate in historical fiction.
I do wish we got to see a little more of the Olympics in Berlin. This was the big event the book built up to, and it just felt over too quickly. But Hooper did a good job creating the mood of Berlin in 1936. Even though we readers know how things with Germany would play out, she does an excellent job immersing the readers in Betty, Helen, and Louise’s thoughts of things feeling strange, but not quite able to pinpoint why. If you’re looking for a historical fiction book with a unique setting or you’re missing the 2020 Summer Olympics, I’d definitely recommend this book to get you through!
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