By Jennifer Iacopelli
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Audrey Lee has dreamed of making the Olympics since she was a young child and now she is on the verge with her best friend Emma. After succeeding to impress the National Gymnastics Coach at the Olympic Trials, they are both off to work in training for the Tokyo Olympics. However, when a teammate is accused of doping then the coach is arrested for falsifying reports and sexual abuse, everything Audrey thinks is true comes crumbling down. Putting it aside and learning to trust a new coach takes Audrey on another leg of her journey to the Olympics. Once there, will she be able to overcome her lingering back pain and her own doubt to rise up and face her Olympic destiny?
Audrey is an excellent character to get swept away with as the story unfolds. The story unfolds from the Olympics Trials through the Olympics and over the journey readers get to experience Audrey’s pain and passion for the sport she has dedicated a chunk of her life to through the descriptions for the training sessions, routines, and Iacopelli takes us into the mind of an elite gymnast. Nothing at that level is ever smooth sailing and it is doubly more complicated when those in positions of power take advantage of athletes. While the allegations of sexual abuse are there, Audrey is mainly experiencing it through her teammates and while that is hard in itself, we see her have rise up when she learns more about what could have been (I do not want to give spoilers, hence the vagueness). I appreciated the amount of growth Audrey is able to manage on the short amount of time span and I also appreciated the romance does not overtake the book either.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in a gymnastic story, especially those who do not want a simple fluff type story, but a sports story that has some hard hitting elements too. This book would pair well with those interested in Athlete A, the Netflix documentary outlining the serial sexual abuser Larry Nassar, the Women’s National Gymnastics Team Doctor. There are also several nonfiction books: The Girls and What is a Girl Worth. Even with the sexual abuse, I would not hesitate to give it to my middle school students—I never know when a book such as this will help a student battling with such topics or they learn how to help a friend going through it. With either of those circumstances, resources are given in the back.