Goodreads: Break the Fall
Published: February 18, 2020
Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics.
A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from a spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States’ gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world.
The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most–but not all the gymnasts are as supportive.
With the team on the verge of collapse, the one bright spot in training is Leo, her new coach’s ridiculously cute son. And while Audrey probably (okay, definitely) shouldn’t date him until after the games, would it really be the end of the world?
Balancing the tenuous relationship between her teammates with unparalleled expectations, Audrey doesn’t need any more distractions. No matter what it takes, she’s not going to let anyone bring them down. But with painful revelations, incredible odds, and the very real possibility of falling at every turn, will Audrey’s determination be enough?
Break the Fall is a timely book, one that addresses sexual assault in elite gymnastics, clearly inspired by recent events. And while part of me finds it a bit odd to fictionalize the trauma that professional athletes have experienced, I do think Iacopelli addresses the topic with immense sympathy and understanding. She also tells a riveting story about the ins and outs of elite gymnastics in general and about her protagonist’s personal struggles to overcome a back injury and to deal with the troubles the USA gymnastics team is facing.
Audrey Lee is a compelling main character. She’s not the best gymnast on her team and she knows it, but she has her strengths and is determined to make her final season a memorable one. It’s her one–and only, thanks to her back injury–to achieve her lifelong dream of going to the Olympics. And, of course, winning some medals. The idea that her dream could be derailed by scandal or some petty backstabbing team members never occurred to her, however, and she finds herself tested by a surprising number of obstacles.
One of those obstacles is simply how she should react to the accusations of sexual assault leveled against a powerful man. Audrey believes the victim but must navigate the best ways to show support, and Iacopelli handles that discussion and Audrey’s struggles thoughtfully, ultimately offering the characters all a bit of hope, as well.
Of course, there are also gymnastics in the book, and various competitions and finals are described in detail–enough that I, a casual gymnastics fan, didn’t feel lost or overwhelmed but probably also enough to satisfy a more avid, knowledgeable fan. The only oddity is the setting at the 2020 Olympics–something the author and readers could have foreseen being cancelled just weeks after the book’s publication! Still, it’s nice to read about an alternate 2020 where life is proceeding normally.
The only real flaw of the book is the romance, which is essentially instalove and didn’t really engage me. I have no idea why Audrey is interested in this guy, besides that he seems generally nice. I see why the author chose to put a romance into the book instead of focusing only on gymnastics, which could have felt a bit narrow, but it needed to be better developed.
If you like gymnastics or sports stories or strong female characters in contemporary fiction, check out Break the Fall.