{Review} OFF BALANCE by Dominique Moceanu

And check out this week's Mythological Mondays post if you're interested in how the Olympics 
came about!

Dominique Moceanu has also co-written a four-book middle-grade series entitled THE GO FOR GOLD GYMNASTS, in stores now!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

WHEN YOU HAVE TRAVELED THE WORLD, won Olympic gold, and gone through a very public court battle against your parents all by the age of seventeen, surprises don't come easy. Discovering my sister Jennifer, though--that was a surprise.

(Page 1, US hardcover edition)

Last night, the US Women's Gymnastic's Team won gold for the first time since 1996, when the Olympics were hosted in Atlanta, Georgia.  This is one of the first Olympic games I remember actively watching.  I was particularly enamored with gymnastics (though never allowed to take lessons myself because they were too expensive), and in particular, Dominique Moceanu.  Moceanu was a major media darling during the 1996 games, perhaps in part because her floor routine "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" captured the home crowd's hearts.

1996 Olympic Footage
When I saw an interview with Moceanu online about her brand-new memoir and heard her talking about a secret sister who had been born without legs, I knew I wanted to read this.  The book is a mixture of heartache, triumph, inspiration, and more.  There are so many topics covered, all of which retained my interest.  The writing never felt dry or forced, as I often find with non-fiction works.

Through Moceanu's journey, we get to experience the Olympic games from her eyes as she relives the moment, we see all that her family sacrificed to get her to the Olympics, as well as all that she lost in order to get so far.  We also get an inside look at the dirty world of Olympic gymnastics, in particular,  Béla and Márta Károlyi.  Béla famously told Kerri Strug, "You can do it!" back in 1996 after she injured herself vaulting, creating one of the most memorable and often-replayed moments of those games.  Moceanu talks about how must of what we know about the Károlyis has been for the camera, and exposes the dirty secrets of the Olympics world.  When I saw Márta Károlyi all over the Olympics with the new gold-medal-winning team last night, I felt sick.  I hope more people realize how controlling the Károlyis have become in this sport in the USA and make changes so that future generations of athletes won't have to suffer the way those currently in the sport do.

Dominique Moceanu and Jennifer Bricker;
photograph from OFF BALANCE 
To me, the most intriguing part of OFF BALANCE was the story of Dominique Moceanu's "secret" sister, Jennifer Bricker, who was born without legs and given up for adoption, but is now reunited with her birth sisters.  Bricker has made something of herself, too.  Despite being born without legs, she's never let that stop her.  Her story is incredibly inspirational.  She's managed all kinds of athletic feats, and has become a gymnast herself.  She's even been on tour performing with Britney Spears.  In many ways, being adopted actually gave Bricker opportunities her sisters never had, as well as gave her opportunities she may have never otherwise had herself.

OFF BALANCE is full of so many different layers, all of which line up to create a multi-faceted story of one of the most memorable Olympic gold medalists in gymnastics.  Moceanu's story makes you care about her plight, her triumphs, her heartbreaks, the people around her, and the sport itself.  If you're a fan of gymnastics, stories of personal triumph over adversity, or the title gymnast herself, this is one memoir you'll want to pick up and read.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The cover is typical for a memoir, displaying an image of the person the book revolves around.  I like that the image is one of Dominique in her leotard because, even if people have forgotten her name, they'll know the book is related to gymnastics just by the cover.

I like that the only color in the cover comes from the title, which really makes it pop.  The yellow and orange also remind me a bit of gold!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Dominique Moceanu
(with Paul and Teri Williams)
Release Date: Out June 12, 2012
Publisher: Touchstone / Simon & Schuster
Received: Borrowed


An unflinchingly honest memoir from Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu that reveals the often dark underbelly of Olympic gymnastics as only an insider can—and the secrets she learned about the past that nearly tore apart her family.

At fourteen years old, Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the 1996 U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastic team, the first and only American women’s team to take gold at the Olympics. Her pixie-like appearance, passion for the sport, and ferocious competitive drive quickly earned her the status of media darling. But behind the fame, the flawless floor routines, and the million-dollar smile, her life was a series of challenges and hardships. 

From her stubborn father and long-suffering mother, to her acclaimed Svengali-like coach, Bela Karolyi, Off Balance reveals how each of the dominating characters contributed to Moceanu’s rise to the top. Here, Moceanu finally shares the haunting stories of competition, her years of hiding injuries and pain out of fear of retribution from her coaches, and how she hit rock bottom after being publicly scorned by her father. But medals, murder plots, drugs, and daring escapes aside (all of which figure into Moceanu’s incredible journey), the most unique aspect of her life is the family secret that Moceanu discovers, opening a new and unexpected chapter in her adult life, just as she reclaims the love of the sport that had defined so much of her life. 

A multilayered memoir that transcends the world of gymnastics and sport, OFF BALANCE will touch anyone who has ever dared to dream of a better life.