Head Over Heels
With the 2020 Summer Olympics in full swing, it was serendipitous that I chose to read Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein. This book is centered on gymnastics with an overarching theme of how an individual can seriously falter when she is no longer able to do the one thing that she has been trained to do for her entire life.
In Head Over Heels Avery Abrams is struggling to find her purpose. She was a budding Olympic gymnast who was sidelined by an injury and never achieved her dream of participating on the US Olympic team. After the injury, Avery briefly attended college, taught some basic gymnastic classes and lost herself in a relationship with a professional quarterback.
With her relationship ended, Avery moves back home to Boston where she faces her past and finds a way to forge a new life as a gymnastic coach to a contender for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Along the way, she rekindles a friendship with her former peer who took Avery’s place at the Olympics.
While this is generally a light read, the author weaves two important issues throughout the storyline. She addresses the sexual assault matter that was uncovered when brave female gymnasts came forth to share their stories about a predatory doctor. The second matter reflects on the verbal and emotional abuse that many gymnasts faced in the past from their coaches. These women were held to severely restrictive diets and berated for their physical appearance and their failure to perform every time at the highest level.
The author was a gymnast for years and while she never competed at a national level, she does a good job in capturing the life of the gymnast, her and her family’s sacrifices and the emotional and physical challenges they face. Kudos to the author for creating a reality based light read.
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