I have always loved watching Olympic gymnastics, so I was excited about this book. It’s a little bittersweet, in that the Tokyo Olympics actually take place in 2020 as scheduled, but with the way publishing works, I’m sure this isn’t the only book set in 2020 that makes no mention of the pandemic and/or the postponement of the Games.
Avery Abrams spent most of her life training to be an Olympic gymnast, but a poor showing at the 2012 Trials ended that goal. The next decade was a series of ups and downs that ends with her football player boyfriend (think TB12 circa 2004) dumping her.
Avery moves back to her small town in Massachusetts and gets a job at her hometown gym, working alongside Ryan Nicholson, who she totally had a crush on back in the day. They’re both training Hallie, a sixteen year old gymnast who has Olympic dreams of her own.
Avery’s character arc was awesome: she gets her life together, finds purpose, realizes her potential, and addresses some of the issues that have been holding her back for years. She reconnects with an old teammate/friend and coming to terms with the fact that her training was not emotionally healthy and vows to do better for Hallie.
The romance, however, was a bit of a letdown. I’m going to try to keep things vague, but there’s a moment when Avery tells Ryan something very important, and he doesn’t believe her at first. He changes his mind after witnessing what Avery is talking about with his own eyes, but it’s a hollow victory. And I know that believing Avery right away would remove most of the non-sports related dramatic tension, but it’s disappointing that he didn’t trust Avery right away.
The overall messages of this book are positive, like the importance of emphasizing emotional/mental health in addition to physical health for elite gymnasts and learning to believe in yourself, etc. I can forgive the tepid romance, especially since it’s already a secondary plot.
I would recommend Head Over Heels. It’s a bit heavy at times for a rom-com, but the problematic elements of the sport need to be addressed in order for change to occur. Everyone is much better off at the end of the book than they were at the beginning; they have all changed for the better—even Ryan! But this book is not 100% poignant/serious… there are plenty of lighter moments as well as tons of shop-talk about gymnastics, which was enough to make up for the lack of Olympic gymnastics this summer. I’m looking forward to reading more from Orenstein in the future.
I received a copy of this book from Atria Books/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.