“The Girl Without a Face” – a figure skating novel


Figure skating is a glamorous sport that tells amazing stories. However, most skating books are non-fiction such as biographies or autobiographies on/from stars such as Aljona Savchenko or Adam Rippon. Only few authors write fiction about skating, which is actually a bit surprising. American Randall Hicks, a long-time skating fan and an accomplished lawyer specialized in adoption law, who has published several non-fiction books and also novels, and his daughter Hailey now have written the novel „The Girl Without a Face“.


Katie Wilder is 15 years old and one of the most talented figure skaters in the world. She not only has a triple Axel, but also a quad Lutz in her arsenal. However, nobody has ever heard of her. She lives alone with her father David, a former well-known and successful top-level coach, in the old and secluded figure skating center of Lake Arrowhead, California. David once was ousted from the skating world, because a student accused him of having an affair with her. Since then he has been teaching a few local beginners - and put all his coaching skills into his daughter. Unfortunately, Katie suffered terrible burns to her face in a car accident when she was three years old and is so disfigured that she wears a masks on the rare occasions she meets other people. So she never even thought about competing.


When David’s former student admits that she had lied about the affair, Katie’s whole world changes drastically and fast. The top US pairs team Melissa Cake and Alexander Piezov (nicknamed “Piece of Cake”) comes to Lake Arrowhead to be coached by David. Katie, whose only friend was the ice until then, is fascinated and scared at the same time. But she opens up and the pair skaters become her first real friends. Finally, Katie feels encouraged to face the world and to start competing. She makes it to the Olympic Games, where not everything goes as hoped …


The story is well researched and is authentic, even though for dramaturgical purposes not everything is as in “real life”. But it’s a novel, after all and not a competition report. Katie, her dad, the other skaters and people come across as realistic and likeable. There are some clichés such as Alex Piezov’s father, a rough Russian ice hockey player, who does not appreciate that his son chose figure skating over hockey. Even some existing persons such as coach Tom Zakrajsek and Tara Lipinski figure in the story. Zakrajsek supported the authors in their research that took about a year.


Katie tells the story herself from her perspective with some irony. Hicks asked his 26-year-old daughter to join the project in order create an authentic character. In some places Katie comes across as somewhat precocious, but then she is not a normal 15-year-old. The book is an enjoyable read, well written and captivating. Since figure skating is associated with beauty more than any other sport, the concept of the talented but terribly disfigured skater is very unusual and interesting.


“When I had the initial idea for the book, the challenge was presenting the sport from the unique perspective of the protagonist, an elite skater so an insider in that regard, but as a person, a complete outsider. I also wanted a truly empowering story, about a girl facing more challenges than most of us can imagine, but rising through those challenges. And along the way we laugh with her, cry with her, and cheer for her,” Randall Hicks said about the book.


This is very “American” in the eyes of Europeans – to fight your way through, to overcome obstacles and setbacks to realize your dreams in the end. The book has a strong message that sometimes could have been brought across a bit more subtle, but it is no way preaching. There are several touching moments in the book, especially when Katie competes at the US Championships and when she has enough trust to take off her mask in front of her friends.


Authenticity was something that was very important to the authors, as they stressed.

“There are many great bios by figure skaters, and plenty of terrific non-fiction books about the sport, but are there any amazingly entertaining novels set in the world of figure skating? No. So that was my goal. I wanted to write the most entertaining and authentic-feeling book possible,” Randall Hicks explained. “So one of the ways we accomplished that was to do something virtually never done in novels: we put real-life people into the story, interacting with Katie. She crosses paths with some of the biggest names in the skating world, from Tara Lipinski to Scott Hamilton to Adam Rippon. And when she is interviewed by the media, it is by actual figure skating journalists whose names figure skating fans will recognize,” he said.

The other big challenge was the desire to touch people and make them think about how they treat and see others. In other words, I wanted to write a book that made a difference in the world, as lofty as that sounds. But the book had to stay fun, fast-moving and entertaining, never preachy. So this is an area where Hailey was so helpful. With her help, Katie Wilder became a real person with a mind of her own,” Hicks concluded. (read the full interview with Randall and Hailey on our website).


To sum it up, „The Girl Without a Face“ is a treat and entertaining not only for figure skating fans. The story is fun to read, interesting, touching, but not kitschy. A great read, especially now in the off season when you miss figure skating a lot.


Randall und Hailey Hicks: The Girl Without a Face, Wordslinger Press, 368 pages, available as an E-Book and as paperback, ISBN 978-0983942573, for example on Amazon.