Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein. I received a free ARC of Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein from NetGalley in turn for my honest review, and I won’t tease you any longer, I loved it. By far, this is the most beautiful and interesting book I’ve read recently.
After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, Avery Abrams life is blown apart when a performance ended her athletic career, spiralling her into a deep depression. Her best friend, and teammate, Jasmine went on to become an Olympic champion, then later married their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.
Now, left broken by a breakup, with no where else to turn, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where a new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising new Olympic gymnast named. With sparks flying, a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world, will Avery come out on top, or will she be broken even further?
Gymnastics has been something I’ve watched when the Olympics are on, and admittedly my cousins both did gymnastics but that’s about my knowledge of the sport. This book is based on the ‘failed’ careers of Avery Abrams becoming an Olympic champion, and the gut punches she faces on the way. It’s a new beginning for a woman who planned her entire life ahead, and a truer statement has never been more spoken: when you plan, life laughs.
Whether you’re a sportsman/woman, it doesn’t matter, all of us can relate to the heartache of not making something. We can also related to our relationship crumbling around you, and Hannah Orenstein writes it so humanly in Head Over Heels and so raw you can feel every ounce of Avery’s pain. Even later, when her confidence is growing and she finds herself once again betrayed, you feel her pain, but marvel at her strength to keep going.
“I had imagined that I’d return home from London as America’s sweetheart…There was no plan B.”Head Over Heels, Hannah Orenstein
It’s all the more painful to realise that Avery’s career ended so young, something you don’t think of when you watch the Olympics. That whilst it was a knee injury she’d recover from, she had run out of time and her dreams lay in tatters just as much as her mental health did. Head Over Heels is a sweet and emotional story that becomes so much more with recent events, the metoo movement and Avery stepping into her own. Her football-player-boyfriend breaking up with her actually leads her on a far better path than she could think at the time.
Which was really nice to see in a book. It was nice to see Avery pick herself up and brush herself down to help the new rising star.
The characterisations written are fleshed out and so human you will feel like you know them. Each are brilliantly executed from beginning to end, from Ryan to Hallie, to Jasmine and Dimitri. The undercurrents and themes are ones we know well, but Hannah takes them so much further than what I was expecting, and the payoff is worth it.
Hallie is excellently portrayed, even with her dream and strict mentality, there are brilliant moments where she shows her age. When her cup becomes too full and she explodes, like anyone her age would. Even when the scandal is announced—one mirroring the real-life one that shook the gymnastic world—it is handled with such sensitivity. Hannah’s focus on how it makes Avery feel and more importantly Hallie. We see it open Avery’s eyes to the unkind treatment she faced when she was a young age, and how she wishes for history not to repeat itself.
“I felt aimless in LA and completely lost back in Greenwood; once I had my heart set on this job, nothing else remotely measured up.”Head Over Heels, Hannah Orenstein
Avery’s growth from broken woman with very little to confidence rolling off of her is perfectly executed. It never feels rush, but natural. The way she finds her voice exactly when she needs to; the way she boldly makes the painful decision about halfway through is remarkable. Avery is so fleshed out, I want to befriend her, often needing to remind myself that she’s fictional.
The romance is a slow burn, but it allows everything else to breathe and for Avery to become the heroine she was always meant to be. With the added touch of “old school men” and passive comments, it’s a book that is bound to make you feel many things—and feel a sense of fury for Avery too.
I honestly couldn’t put this book down, curling up on my sofa growling at my dog to back off because I needed to give it my full attention.
But that’s the beauty of well written stories, they feel real, every inch of them. They transport you to places you’d never think of, which is how I ended up at the trials alongside the team: Ryan, Hallie and Avery.
I cannot wait for this to be published on the 23rd of June, so ready to jump in line to get my own copy. I think you’d be foolish not to jump on board of this heartwarming rom-com with so much warmth and genuine human kindness. I couldn’t recommend this enough and it’s the reason I’ve rated it five stars out of five, adding it to my favourites to read again.
The quotes used in this are taken from an ARC, they may have changed to publication.