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Blog Tour Review: Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

on March 1, 2020

Break The Fall
Jennifer Iacopelli
Hodder Children’s Books
2020, 332p
Copy courtesy Hachette AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics.

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?

When I was a child, I really wanted to do gymnastics. So I’m reading this is a frustrated would-be, never-was gymnast who loves watching routines at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, etc. Audrey Lee has completed the ultimate comeback from spinal surgery and now she’s a member of the United States of America’s gymnastics team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, along with her childhood best friend Emma, veteran Chelsea and Dani. For Emma and Audrey, competing together is part of the dream. They’ve been friends since their mothers enrolled them together at 3yrs old. For Audrey, this is it – her one chance at this level of competition and she’s nervous.

The scandal that blows apart the team is multi-level and devastating. Audrey’s level of confusion felt realistic as she works through the accusations about a man she’s spent more time with in her life than her parents. I really admired the way she pieced through her complicated feelings before ultimately deciding to support the gymnast who has blown the whistle and she’s astounded when Emma doesn’t seem to feel the same way. For Audrey, what has been her ultimate dream has suddenly become a nightmare – they have no coach. The team is divided straight down the middle. All of them have a complicated emotional fallout to work through. And they’re just about to compete at the premium competition of the global stage, against countries like Russia, China, Japan, Romania, etc. Countries who won’t have had this interruption to their preparation, countries who are superior in gymnastics and who will force them to be at their absolute best where you can’t show a flicker of weakness, where you can’t make a single mistake.

When you read this book, set aside enough time to finish it. Because I can’t remember the last time I became so invested in something as I did in these girls and their quest to win gold and fight back against someone who used a position of power to intimidate, abuse and try to ruin them. The team is a mess, struggling with a fill-in coach who for Audrey, trains in a completely different way that she’s used to and makes her feel as though she’s set up to fail. There’s a divide – the reserves have the most to gain if the accuser doesn’t return to the team, as one of them will fill her spot. Even though they’re a team, they’re also individual competitors and their strengths and weaknesses will affect each other in the team competition and possibly prevent each other from medal finishes in individual events. There are a lot of really realistic reactions to the accusations, reactions that you see mirrored in real life situations as a lot of the narrative is to ‘victim blame’ and rationalise what people in positions have power have done and why. And sometimes a backlash reaction hides the real reason and this is woven into the narrative in a superior fashion. At their core, these are just teenage girls who have devoted their entire lives to this moment. They have lived, eaten, slept and breathed gymnastics. They have probably barely had lives outside of this which makes them both targets for this sort of behaviour and also explains some of their reactions as they struggle to deal with what has happened and what it truly means.

However. There’s a moment where they come together, the four girls competing for the team, after they’ve been at their lowest, they fight back. All of a sudden things like countries and stuff don’t matter, they’re all women, they all have something to say, something to show and they unite themselves and are surprised and touched that their fellow competitors stand with them in a show of solidarity. It’s a movement, a recognition that there’s a problem and it needs to stop, that they won’t let it happen anymore. Look, I didn’t think reading about gymnastic routines could be so incredibly gripping, so tense! But I honestly found my heart in my mouth in a lot of the scenes as the girls went through their routines, the ups and downs of the whims of the judges, the disappointment of a fall, the high of a ‘stick’ landing. I wanted these girls to succeed so much, not just because of what they’d gone through, what they realised about themselves and each other and the person that wronged them and the message it would send. The four final girls had transcended even being a team and had been the catalyst for something greater.

This story is powerful and empowering but it’s also heartfelt and uplifting. There’s a cute little romance as a side plot that sprinkles some pure goodness into the story but it’s really about the girls and their strength both as individuals and as a team. Phenomenal book!

{Bring on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and watching all the routines and thinking about this book!}

9/10

Book #31 of 2020

This review is a part of the Break The Fall blog tour, hosted by AusYABloggers and thanks to Date A Book/HachetteAUS! You can check the schedule below and visit a few of the other blogs on the tour to see what they thought as well!

Break The Fall on Goodreads
Jennifer Iacopelli’s website and twitter

 


One response to “Blog Tour Review: Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

  1. […] Blog Tour Review: Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli Mar […]

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