Audrey Lee has finally achieved her life-long dream of making the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. After suffering a devastating spine injury and defying odds by returning to training, Audrey is hoping to go out with a bang in Tokyo. With her best friend, Emma, on the team, Audrey finally feels like her hard work has paid off. The world expects the U.S. team to win gold, and the girls expect to leave Tokyo Olympic champions.
But when the U.S. squad arrives at training camp, the team receives shocking news: the national team coach has been arrested for tampering with Audrey’s teammate, Dani’s, drug test and for sexually assaulting gymnasts. With her team on the verge of collapse, Audrey knows she has to lift them up before it is too late. The one person keeping her afloat is Leo, her new coach’s hottie son— who she knows she definitely should not date. But, that’s easier said than done.
Once they arrive in Tokyo, the team battles the pressure for perfection and must come to terms with the emotional and physical abuse they suffered at the hands of their coach. When Audrey is voted captain by her teammates, she refuses to let anyone bring them down. They’re the best team in the world… but will their hard work and perseverance be enough to win bring home gold?
We are big gymnastics fans, so when we saw this book we knew we had to read it! Who else went through a major Make It Or Break It phase back in they day? We definitely did. Break the Fall reminds us of a more realistic MIOBI— and we thoroughly enjoyed it! Besides, the TV show ended right after the girls made to Olympic team, leaving us in the dark over what happened in London. Break the Fall begins at Olympic trials.
The book’s description of the sport was accurate and shed light on the trials of being an elite-level gymnast fighting for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Past books we’ve read about gymnastics have glorified the training and did not realistically depict skills or expectations for perfection the gymnasts face. We really appreciated that Iacopelli did her research. The book tackles important topics like emotional and physical abuse, the mental toll of striving to meet unrealistic expectations, and the stress of performing under pressure. Plus, we could tell this book was inspired by the sexual assaults that happened to the elite gymnasts in the country.
Audrey was a reliable narrator and her point of view was invaluable to understanding the culture of elite gymnastics. The writing was well done. We felt as though we were watching the gymnasts compete through Iacopelli’s writing. Her technical knowledge of the sport showed, and we were very invested with the girls’ journey as a result. The girls formed a strong bond, and we loved seeing them overcome adversity— both as a team and individually. All four girls took back their love of gymnastics after being put through hell by their coaches for team medals. We were rooting for them from start to finish!
Now, let’s talk romance. Audrey and Leo were adorable! We really enjoyed their bond and how Leo helped Audrey through the difficulties she faced in training once the bombshell news dropped about their coach. Though this book is not about the romance as much as it is about the girls’ stories, the romance was a nice addition to the storyline. It never felt cheesy or forced, and though it was not our favorite romance, we really liked Leo and his supportive nature. They brought out the best in each other and Audrey inspired Leo to continue training for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Overall, Break the Fall was a great book! We hope Iacopelli writes more YA books about gymnastics in the future! We wish there had been an epilogue to catch up with the girls post-Tokyo, but the ending was satisfying on its own. If you are interested in learning more about the culture of USA Gymnastics, we highly recommend watching the new Netflix documentary, Athlete A, about former U.S elite gymnast, Maggie Nichols and her fellow survivors.