Summary (from the publisher): The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a
disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.
Now, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations. Despite her misgivings and worries about the memories it will evoke, Avery agrees. Back in the gym, she’s surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan. But when a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world breaks, it has shattering effects not only for the sport but also for Avery and her old friend Jasmine.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
After absolutely loving Playing with Matches this summer and enjoying Love at First Like last year, I was so excited to read her 2020 release, Head Over Heels. I can’t believe I held off until reading this one until October, but I’m so glad I saved it! I was craving a contemporary read last weekend, and thankfully had this one waiting for me on my shelf. All the puns intended, I am head over heels in love with this book!
If you were a fan of the Netflix documentary, Athlete A, and enjoy contemporary books as much as I do, Head Over Heels is an absolute must read. The book follows Avery Adams, an elite gymnast whose career ended seven years ago after an injury at the Olympic Trials. After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Avery decides to leave California and move back home to Massachusetts, aka the home of her crushed childhood and teenage dreams. When Avery is asked to coach an Olympic hopeful, she finds herself falling for the fellow coach and more importantly, discovering her purpose and how maybe gymnastics can be part of her life once again.
I devoured Head Over Heels in less than a day! It was the perfect amount of contemporary-ness with serious discussions and topics (more on that below), with such a unique setting. The book does light-heartedly call out fans like me, but gymnastics is one of my favorite sports to watch during the Olympics, so it was so fascinating to get an inside look at the sport. I admit that I didn’t really understand some of the moves or gymnastics, but it didn’t really distract me from the plot (and it actually led me to discover gymnastics Tik Tok). I loved Avery as a protagonist, especially since we really get to see her character transform from start to end. I thought the romance was well balanced between everything involving Hallie and getting ready for the Olympic Trials, as well as Avery’s own journey dealing with her past and figuring out her next steps.
However, I don’t want to under-score that the novel does include a plot line very similar to the real sexual assault cases within USA Gymnastics, involving Avery’s trainee, Hallie. There are no sexual assault scenes within the book, but Hallie does describe her uncomfortable expereince with her doctor. I thought Hannah Orenstein handled this topic really well, and I loved how she brought in the mental health piece. Although Avery did not experience sexual assault as a gymnast, she was often emotionally abused by her former coach. I’m not sure if it’s really a critque, because on the one hand, I’m glad Hallie and the other gymnasts were able to compete and not worry about how speaking up would affect their Olympic potential, but on the other hand, that is a very real reality that many gymnasts faced — I highly recommend checking out Athlete A to learn more about how women’s’ reporting affected their reputation, as well as Olympic potential for some of the younger athletes.
Overall, Head Over Heels was the perfect contemporary read for me with its unique setting and balance between contemporary romance and real life discussions. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Hannah Orenstein comes out with next!
Have you read Head Over Heels? Have you read Hannah Orenstein’s books, Playing with Matches or Love at First Like? Share in the comments!