Break the Fall by Jennifer Iacopelli

break the fallA review by Nalini Haynes

Audrey Lee, Rey to her friends, is a gymnast. She’s vying for a position on the USA 2020 Olympics team. Her goal: to win two gold medals before her injuries force her to retire from the sport. Then the team coach is arrested for pedophilia, grooming and sexually assaulting team members. He also faked a positive drug test to exclude one of his victims who’d had enough of being abused. Rey is determined to win, to pull the team together and to break the fall, break the silence and break the lies.

A #MeToo book

The Me Too movement has caused a shift in the zeitgeist, with powerful men exposed. Men who thought they could get away with sexual harassment and even violent rape are more often held accountable now.

Break The Fall is a “Me Too” book, the third book in this genre that I’ve read in the past few months. The others are Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin and Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. Following in its predecessor’s footsteps, Break The Fall does an excellent job of dealing with the issues including discussing power, silence and even women’s collaboration with the perpetrators.

A sport-focused novel

I’ve never been one for watching sport; I’m someone who wants to participate or do something else – like read. I did gymnastics for one year in high school. Spoiler: I was crap at it. However, I enjoyed it. This is probably why I’m still doing yoga and body balance and loving it.

My point?

It’s been a lifetime since I did gymnastics and I’ve hardly ever watched it or any other sport. Break The Fall was still riveting, both from the Me Too angle and the sports angle. It has imbued me with a desire to watch the Olympics gymnastics.

Break The Fall vs disability

Rey acquired a sports injury, possibly due to abuse by her coaches. Surgery as a teenager then intensive training still secured Rey a spot in the Olympic team trials. However, she needs cortisone injections to keep the pain at bay and to keep competing.

Her fears over rejection, including her fear of coaches ejecting her from the team, drives her to risk her health. Rey’s pain, an invisible disability requiring accommodations while causing suffering, has equivalencies for many disabled people. Disabled people face fears like Rey’s and this kind of discrimination all the time. Break The Fall has the potential to chip away at negative disability tropes.

(See Ria Cheyne’s Disability, Literature, Genre for an in-depth discussion of the impact fiction has on perceptions of disabled people. I’m currently reading this excellent nonfiction book so watch this space for a review.)

The Wrap

I was in two minds about reading Break The Fall because SPORTS NOVEL. Overcoming my prejudice was the right choice. I love this novel, it has everything: relatable characters, discussion of “Me Too” issues that delves deep, and a sports-based plot that will inspire many to watch the 2020 Olympics – while also putting Iacopelli on their watch list! Highly recommended.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781444953244
Imprint: Hodder Children’s Books (Hachette)
Released: 2020
Format: paperback, 322 pages
Category: teen, sport, social issues

Update

Although Hachette sent me a review copy without imposing conditions, I said I’d participate in a blog hop before I realised my review copy was literally in the mail. When I initially posted this review I spent AN HOUR trying to find the blog hop information email but could NOT find it. (I’ve been having email troubles for months, during which time I’ve switched email apps.) Eventually I just scheduled the post.

Shortly afterwards, sure enough, a follow up email arrived about the blog hop. I meant to get on the computer ASAP and fix the scheduled post but I was a little busy: building a website for friends that, so far, has taken several days and meetings and still isn’t ready for launch (committees, busy people, etc etc); editing the Canberra Bonsai Society newsletter; organising THE MOST KICK ASS International Women’s Day panel that, incidentally, includes Jennifer Iacopelli as one of the guest panelists; and many more activities besides.

My apologies to my fellow blog hoppers. Your links are now embedded in this post and I’ve re-dated the post to reflect the desired publishing date. – Editor.

Relevant Links
About The Author

Jennifer Iacopelli was born in New York and has no plans to leave, ever. Growing up, she read everything she could get her hands on, but her favorite authors were L.M. Montgomery and Frances Hodgson Burnett, both of whom wrote about kick-butt girls before it was cool for girls to be kick-butt. As a high school librarian, she frolics all day with her students, books and computers and writes at night while cheering on her beloved Yankees.

Author Links

 

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