Thanks to Partner NetGalley for the digital ARC of Hannah Orenstein's Head Over Heels in exchange for an honest review. The book releases Tuesday, June 23.
Hannah Orenstein's Head Over Heels has a lot going for it: a fantastic cover; a great, insider's perspective on women's gymnastics; and a compelling, coming-of-age/redemption story for its protagonist. Avery Abrahams was at the center of the U.S. gymnastics world when she had a career-ending injury during the meet that should have cemented her path to the Olympics. Instead, her best friend Jasmine takes her place on the team, and Avery becomes a college dropout whose main focus is her professional football player boyfriend. When their relationship ends, Avery slouches home to her parents and her hometown.
She has nothing to look forward to. Until Ryan Nicholson calls. Ryan was a male gymnast on the Olympic team, and he's now coaching another Olympic hopeful. Hallie has a lot of potential . . . but a disastrous floor routine, which just happens to be Avery's specialty. Avery agrees to help Hallie and sees a chance to redeem herself and to find some meaning in her life.
This book does so much well, particularly in commenting about the scandals that have rocked the sport of gymnastics recently. It also confronts some of the health issues that plague the sport, through Avery's coach, her memories of his abusive coaching style, and her lingering issues with her self-image. The least successful part of the book, for me, was the romance. The author tells the reader, repeatedly, about the chemistry between Avery and Ryan, but I didn't feel it. Instead, the course of their relationship seems to be shoehorned into an otherwise compelling story of a woman trying to establish an identity after her dream is crushed in a moment.