Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review: Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

Head Over Heels
By Hannah Orenstein
My Rating 3 out of 5 Stars

Avery had a dream ending injury at the Olympic Trials and after, she was left lost, unsure of how to continue on with her life. When she and her longtime boyfriend breakup, she finds herself moving back home to her parents’ house, and unexpectedly back at her old gym coaching by her former crush Ryan to try out to coach his Olympic hopeful Hailee on her once specialty event--the floor routine.

While working with Hailee, Avery has to battle out of the depression the void gymnastics left in her life--if she was not a gymnast, what and who is she? As the book unfolds, we also learn how abusive her old coach, Dimitri, was and how that has effected her life. The ultimate betrayal comes when her former best friend Jasmine not only steps into the spotlight to win Olympic glory but then ends up marrying their former coach Dimitri.

Through her coaching with Hailee, Avery is able to move forward, healing, moving out of her depression, and she is able to come to realization that there is more she can do than coaching to help the next generation of gymnasts. During a chance opportunity to reconnect with Jasmine, a spark is ignited to do more for the sport Avery once loved. Channeling her renewed passion into forming a foundation that helps with the whole gymnast--especially those that cannot help themselves or have been hurt by the sport they love--Avery has a way to give her life purpose.

Overall, I like this book though I was a bit disappointed as I felt it wrapped up a bit too cleanly and quickly. Avery was my favorite character overall, but that could be that she is the only character I feel like did any sort of character growth over the course of the novel--the others stayed firmly in the secondary character slot. Even Hailee, we watch her grow as a gymnast and battle her emotions as she works through an unfortunate situation that is never fully explored.

I recommend it to anyone with an interest in gymnastics or contemporary fiction in general, though this one does not break the mold. Those more interested in exploring the Nassar abuse through fiction might want to seek another title such as Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli or nonfiction titles such as Rachael Denhollander's What Is a Girl Worth or The Girls by Abigail Pesta or the training regime of Olympic gymnasts in Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan.

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