Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Book Review: Break The Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli


Break The Fall follows Rey - a gymnast hoping to be picked for the US Olympics team - as she tries to get gold in Tokyo. She's aware that this is going to be her last chance, with a painful back injury meaning that at just seventeen, she's reaching the end of her career, but with best friend Emma by her side, she's convinced she has a great shot at a medal. Then another team member, Dani, makes an accusation of sexual abuse against their coach, leading to a change in preparation, fracturing the team, and causing a scandal as the public, and the rest of the teammates, weigh in on whether they believe the accusation. Can the girls win gold despite everything?

From the summary there, I think this sounds like a heavier read than it actually is - and that's not meant to suggest it glosses over the important issues tackled. Rather, the book focuses firmly on the competition, and on the girls' determination not to let anything stand in the way of what they worked for. I loved the cameradarie between most of the girls - not just the US team, but also other competitors from different nations who came together to show Dani their support. It's wonderful to see them standing together and fighting for each other, despite their rivalry.

The competition scenes are brilliantly described and I was constantly holding my breath as Audrey, and others, stepped up to do their routines. They're also easy enough even for a relative rookie in watching gymnastics to follow. (I am that rookie!) The book builds to a breathtaking climax which kept me completely unsure how successful Rey was going to be.

In addition to the main focuses of the competitions and of the abuse allegation, there's a charming romance between Rey and childhood friend Leo, son of her new coach. This takes a back seat to everything else going on in her life but he's a supportive love interest and it's really great to see a budding relationship stay in the background rather than become the most important thing in a character's life - Rey is very clear that she's focusing on supporting her friends, and on going out and winning medals.

Oh, and lots of diverse representation here - Rey is biracial (Korean and white parents), as is Leo (Black and white parents), while Dani is Latinx and the rest of the gymnasts are from various racial backgrounds.

The perfect read for sports fans, or for anyone wanting to read a fiercely feminist book about a group of girls defying disruption to push for success.

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