Break the Fall, by Jennifer Iacopelli
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Release Date: February 18, 2020
Length: 323 pages
Times Read: Once
A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from a spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States’ gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world.
The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most–but not all the gymnasts are as supportive.
With the team on the verge of collapse, the one bright spot in training is Leo, her new coach’s ridiculously cute son. And while Audrey probably (okay, definitely) shouldn’t date him until after the games, would it really be the end of the world?
Balancing the tenuous relationship between her teammates with unparalleled expectations, Audrey doesn’t need any more distractions. No matter what it takes, she’s not going to let anyone bring them down. But with painful revelations, incredible odds, and the very real possibility of falling at every turn, will Audrey’s determination be enough?
HELLO, AND WELCOME TO A TOPIC THAT I KNOW A SHOCKING AMOUNT OF INFORMATION ABOUT!
♥ Though I never made it to elite, I was a gymnast for a long time growing up and after I left the sport I still followed it really closely. I wanted to see how my friends were doing, yes, but I was also just still really invested in everything. I do not watch a minute of any other sport, but I still check in on gymnastics. I love seeing a Karolyi go down, or when the USOC threatened to decertify USA Gymnastics unless the entire board retired, so they did, and then the Olympics started decertifying USAG anyway and USAG filed for bankruptcy a month later because USAG is and always has been complete and total trash.
Anyway, this book parallels a lot of real-life events and people from recent history, OR DOES IT? It’s honestly hard to tell when everything about the history of the sport is rife for the assault and abuse of girls.
If shit like this infuriates you while simultaneously leaving you with a need to know more as well, may I suggest further reading in the form of the nonfiction masterpiece Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan. Originally published in 1995, it’s updated every five or ten years and I will keep buying new copies until it stops being relevant.
♥ But this book is also about the Olympics! I hate sports, but there is something magical about the Olympics that gives me that ability to watch every single minute of those few weeks every two years, even when I have no idea what’s going on. And this book opens DURING THE OLYMPIC TRIALS, WHAT??
Unlike most other sports, your placement in the trials does not guarantee your spot on the Olympic team. Because before, during, and immediately following the trials, there’s a selection committee that’s meeting behind the scenes, effectively choosing who they want to be on the team. Did you know you don’t even have to participate in the trials to get on the team? The committee goes into trials with a good idea of who they want, so if someone is injured and can’t compete or doesn’t do as well as they needed to, the committee will simply say that they used scores from a previous competition instead. It feels both fair to those who couldn’t participate that day, while also wildly unfair to the unfortunate few who are replaced.
♥ But this year, making the team starts off a chain of heartache and pain for everyone. The girls have to deal with sexual assault declarations, the realization that they were being groomed, and processing the fact that adults they’ve trusted for years, trusted with their bodies, their dreams, their health…they were someone you didn’t actually know at all.
There are definitely some trigger warnings for this book, especially surrounding the abuse. But the author is careful not to include any flashbacks or graphic descriptions, making it a much smoother read. There is also a list of resources includes at the back for those who might need it.
♥ The assault allegations change a lot of things this Olympic year, but one of the biggest is that the coaches the girls are used to working with have now all been suspended. They’re sent to a new gym with a new coach to all work together instead of their personal coaches who have been there from the beginning. It’s a difficult change to make at the last minute, but it might be just the thing they need.
♥ There is the loveliest romance between Audrey and Leo, her new coach’s son. They’re not supposed to date until after the Olympics. Audrey knows it’s a bad idea. She can’t lose focus. She’s only a year out from spine surgery that could have paralyzed her. She still has a lot of pain, but she isn’t going to let it stop her from competing.
Leo knows it’s a bad idea. He’s been expressly told to leave her alone until after the Games by his mom. He does his best to brush her off, but can they really stay away from each other?
Favorite Quotes:“I defy anyone to look at this picture, to look at what we’ve accomplished together, and tell me that we’re not the greatest team in the world.”