{Review} BREAK THE FALL by Jennifer Iacopelli

Happy Book Day to...

by Jennifer Iacopelli! 

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  WHITE-HOT SPARKS OF AGONY light down my spine, scorching over my hips and into my thighs. I grind my back teeth together and clench my fists against the pain, blunt fingernails biting into the palms of my hands. 
  C'mon, Audrey, it's nothing. Push through it. 
  Pounding my knuckles against the muscles of my calves helps distract from the ache as I sit on the floor, legs spread out in a split, waiting my turn.
  The only sound in the sold-out arena is the reverberating squeak of the uneven bars lifting up into the rafters. It's been like this for two days. One by one, we go up to the vault or the beam or the bars or the floor and perform while the crowd holds its breath. 
  I do too. If I don't, it might become too much, and I can't afford anyone noticing how much my back hurts. 
  Especially not him.

(pg. 1, US ARC edition)

“Bits of dust hang in the air, clinging to everything.  It's beautiful.


If you love gymnastics, BREAK THE FALL by Jennifer Iacopelli is a must. This is also a fantastic read during this year's Olympic season, especially since it "takes place" at the Tokyo Olympics. If you've ever wanted to take a look backstage and see what goes on at meets when gymnasts aren't performing, or if you always wished you were a gymnast yourself, this is the book that lets you achieve those dreams and pretend you're really there.

Ask any athlete, and they'll tell you how hard it is to bounce back after an injury. Many dreams are destroyed the minute something goes crucially wrong. Some athletes can make a come-back, while others must settle on new dreams. Audrey Lee knows this well, having suffered a spine injury that almost paralyzed her and destroyed her entire future. She's worked hard to return to the world of elite gymnastics, and even though only cortisone shots can keep the pain at bay. Audrey doesn't let anyone know how much pain she's truly in, desperate to achieve her life-long dream: Making the USA Women's Olympic Gymnastics Team. She's finally here. Finally close. Her name has been called and all her dreams are actually coming true. But Audrey is standing at the brink, and everything is about to collapse...again.

BREAK THE FALL will have trigger warnings for some people. Right after names are drawn for the Olympic team, the gymnastics world is thrown into scandal as it is discovered that coach Christopher “Gibby” Gibbins has been sexually assaulted some of the gymnasts under his care. The entire team is dismantled and the girls are forced to re-audition for their spots. Their coaches are all removed, nobody knowing how far up the chain the scandal goes or who helped him hide, especially after it was discovered everyone knew about one gymnast's fake drug test results. Now, the girls must train for the biggest meet of their life with a coach they're unfamiliar with and the world discussing what is happening behind their backs. Talk about pressure!

These girls are put through the ringer in so many ways, and overcome so much. Iacopelli doesn't hold back her punches. While a similar scandal has occurred recently in gymnastics, it wasn't so close to the Olympics, which is enough to alter anyone's state-of-mine. These poor gymnasts have it rough and must stay clear-headed and determined if they want their dreams to come true.

Poor Audrey has a double-whammy. On top of the fall-out, her latest cortisone shot is already wearing off and she's in more pain than ever. How can she hide this, especially with desperate alternating vying for her spot on the team? This is her only shot at the Olympics. In four years, she won't be healthy or fit enough to try again. But if she reaches for her dream now, can she make it?

I have always been a fan of gymnastics. It is one of my favorite sports. I turn it on when I'm flipping through TV stations, even for "smaller meets" outside of Olympic years. Though, yes, of course it is my favorite come the Olympics! Woomen's gymnastics, men's gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, I love them all -- though women's has always fascinated me most. I used to beg for lessons and desperately wanted to be a gymnast myself. I lived vicariously whenever I watched meets on TV. I was also a huge fan of the television series Make It or Break It, which was cancelled right before the girls would have come to the Olympics, and the show scraped together a finale, but didn't give our girls everything they deserved that had been building over the course of the series. If you follow Iacopelli on social media, you'll know she's just as heartbroken over the cancellation and, in a way, BREAK THE FALL is her love letter to the show and what would have happened if the girls had been able to go to the Olympics.

There is also, of course, a little romance, but it is a sub-plot. Audrey is too focused on her goals and staying healthy and the looming weight of the Olympics to truly be distracted by boys and romance, but when Leo Dorsey-Adams re-enters her life, her crush on him re-ignites. It doesn't help that Leo is the son of the woman now stepping in to train the gymnasts as coach and that they're all staying together to train. The two begin to form a bond, but can't act on it without causing another scandal in the gymnastics world. But after the Olympics? Anything goes!

BREAK THE FALL moves a mile a minute, and is so hard to put down. Readers go through the wringer with these gymnasts and care about them so much. They want them to succeed. They want them to have all the medals. They want all the best for them and hate how tarnished this year's Olympics have become. And, no spoilers, but there is a scene that happens towards the end of the book at the Olympics involving all the gymnastics teams from around the world and it hit me in the feels in so many ways and became my favorite moment in the entire novel. But really, while I loved the whole journey, those chapters that take place at the Olympics were the highlight for me. Iacopelli makes you feel like you're there. From detailing tricks to mentioning specific routine music to talking about the beauty of dust in the air and the roar of the crowd in the stands and the always-lurking presence of cameras on the sidelines, readers will truly feel like they are at the Olympics and taking part in this experience right alongside the Olympics team.

If you're a fan of gymnastics, or love reading sports books during the Olympics, or love seeing athletes persevere and overcome staggering obstacles, BREAK THE FALL is one book you can't miss.


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( Kissing )
Language: PG13 ( Language, including several F-bombs; slight innuendo about being ready for more after the Olympics )
Violence: --
Other: PG13 ( A coach is accused of sexual assault, and there are a lot of discussions on the subject throughout the book, including from victims )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This one makes you sit up and do a double-take! The image is upside down, creating an interesting angle. I also love the cloud of dust around everything, both because it brings images of meets vividly to mind and because there is a passage in the book where the beauty of dust in the air is described that captivated me, and I love that I think of that passage when I see this cover!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Jennifer Iacopelli
Release Date: February 11, 2020
Publisher: Penguin Razorbill
Received: For Review


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?