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.
Hannah Orenstein is the author of Playing with Matches and Love at First Like, and is the senior dating editor at Elite Daily. Previously, she was a writer and editor at Seventeen.com. She lives in Brooklyn.
Like pretty much all other American girls who watched an injured Kerri Strug vault The Magnificent Seven to US Olympic gold in 1996, I had dreams of being an badass gymnast. 12 year old me had the dream and 38 year old me thought I has this book. We were both wrong.
Because the dream we all thought we had back then - about being a celebrated and loved gymnast who could fly - we all now know involved a lot of abuse. I now look at Kerri Strug's face in those 1996 Atlanta TouTube videos and see things a lot differently. I used to see nerves and determination. Now I see fear and the look of a trapped little girl who knows she has to run on a very injured foot or risk the wrath of her coaches.
Most of us have heard about Larry Nassar. And he was one of the people who carried Kerri off the platform that day. I've also watched all the documentaries and read some of the books. All was not right in Neverland. And it's heartbreaking.
Still, I still love magic of gymnastics and have so much respect for the young athletes who sacrifice so much and put their bodies through such havoc to follow their dreams. So I was really excited to read this book and get a taste of the 2020 Olympic Gymnastic Team that will never be. Yet another casualty to COVID-19.
Unfortunately, however, this book just wasn't sure what it wanted to be.
The cover and blurb pedaled a light romance set against the backdrop of elite gymnastics. A "scandal" is alluded to...and, again, unless you live under a rock, we all knew what that scandal was most likely to be.
However, putting it bluntly, the romance in this book just sucked. The book would have been better without it. More attention could have been given to other things. Instead, the two love interests basically circle each other over and over again...taking turns wanting to just be friends despite "wanting to be together" and having numerous conversations about this - multiple times. Over and over again. Zero tension. Zero build-up.
Also, I felt like Avery was giving Hallie the "last talk before the big game" pep talk on almost every other page. Which made the actual pre-big moment pep talk at the end of the book feel superfluous and completely uneventful. It felt powerless and I just didn't care. It had been done too many times already, leaving it completely without impact.
In fact, here is a basic rundown of the story in general...
Avery whining and wallowing. Gymnastics practice. Long-winded relationship conversation. Avery whining and wallowing. Gymnastics Practice. Pep talk. Long list of fictional gymnast names. Gymnastics practice. Long-winded relationship conversation. Gymnastics competition. Pep talk. Repeat.
Now, what really irritated me about this book was the sexual abuse story line....which let's remember is based on REAL sexual abuse events, after all...if you are going to incorporate such a heavy and serious topic into what is basically a fluff book, it needs to be either briefly mentioned, but not involving any of the main characters...or it needs to touch a main character and become a HUGE focal point of the story. But you can't have it both ways. Which is what this book attempted.
Briefly mentioning makes it clear you don't exist in a vacuum and gives the real events the respect they deserve. But making one of your characters a victim of the abuser - abuse which occurs off page DURING the course of the story - without making that the focal point of the story from that point forward, felt...exploitative, in my opinion.
It was like this book wanted to do some heavy lifting, without actually having to touch any weight. And I didn't like it. It took something really serious - something REAL, which this author literally plucked from the news headlines almost word for word - and made it a cheap plot device with little substance.
Other than that, you could definitely tell the author knows a lot about the sport of gymnastics. In the notes preceding the book, she mentions she trained and competed for many years. And it definitely showed. Those portions of the book (the detailed descriptions of gymnastic elements, conditioning, practice, and culture) felt very authentic and I enjoyed them; however, they just didn't offset everything that was missing in my opinion.
Avery Abrahams dreamed of being Olympic gymnast for her whole life and trained for it till one day her only breaks into smithereens with one fault, one disastrous performance ended with her injury. And her best friend took over her place, becoming Olympic champion, succeeding everything she wanted. As a final nail in her coffin: she got married with their strict, abusive coach Dimitri: The very same man, she trained with for years and the man who never called and asked her if she was okay after her big injury ended her career.
She leaves the town to move to LA for college education in UCLA but she cannot adapt in her life because getting drunk, partying too much and after dropping school, she starts dating a football star but 4 years later, he dumps her.
Now she’s coming to her home sweet home, heartbroken, jobless, aimless for living with her family house covered with her photos of her competitions, her trophies. And the very same night, she has a family dinner mixed with their interrogation what she’s going to do with her life, she gets a phone call Ryan she has known from her training days and had a crush on him years ago. After winning gold metals, Ryan changes his career direction to become a coach and now he asks Avery to assist her training promising young gymnast named Hallie. Avery hesitates to say yes but after seeing TMZ reports of her ex-lover dating a swim-suit model and experiencing a disastrous Tinder sate of her own, she feels like she has to do something with her life and she gets the offer.
This sweet, moving, emotional story reminded me of Lucy Score’s Rock Bottom Girl but this one is more thought-provoking, serious, dealing with metoo movement, abuse, self-destruction. This is powerful women’s fiction more than romance. I really enjoyed Ryan and Avery’s chemistry and Ryan lost his brownie points (I think he lost his all credits till he does honorable, praising things for honoring the lives of hard working and fighting women!)so many times I wanted to punch him for his obnoxious moves and passive manners.
This is motivational second chances, learning from your mistakes and loving yourself book with heartfelt and positive messages. It’s a great feel-good, keep smiling and finding you inner power not to give up book! I only cut one star because of romance parts. (Slow burn but also hero’s indecisive moves around heroine made me a little irritated.) But it’s still great 4 starred, remarkable and motivational reading!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for sharing this meaningful ARC with me in exchange my honest review.
Hear me out, I love gymnastics too damn much and this was actually really good and even though I want to give it more stars, I think my rating is fair this way. But inside my heart, I gave it 5 stars ;)
Okay now. Moving on. I cannot express how happy this synopsis made me when I first discovered this book.
I am a huge gymnastics fan, I’ve been in love with this sport for ages already and I am honestly bordering obsession when it comes to gymnastics competitions (or gymnastics in general). And when I saw that this is a romance featuring my favourite sport in the world I had to have a serious talk with myself and prepare for absolutely everything I had to encounter.
You know when you have a huge obsession and you just start fantasising and bring your hopes so high up that you can’t reach them anymore? Yeah, me too. That’s why I had to pace myself.
To be honest, Head Over Heels did not disappoint me in any way. It was actually one of the few books for which I had high hopes without knowing what’s exactly going to happen and it did not let me down. Like, I lived up to my own pre-programmed hype.
This went exactly the way I thought it would. I predicted the majority of the main events here and (yay me!) I was right. I liked that.
Hannah Orenstein gives us insights into this book. Insights from a world that doesn’t interest anybody in general – only once every four years.
The gymnastics world is a tough and fascinating world. It is cruel and hard and lonely and maybe a bit sad. But in order to be part of this world, you have to have unconditional love for the sport that is to become your worst torturer and your dearest friend. You have to commit 100% to this life. You have to give up on everything but yourself in order to achieve the impossible and touch perfection. But what happens when you sell your soul for those five minutes of eternal glory that is never going to happen anymore? You become nothing.
This is the story of Avery Abrams, the ultimate fallen star.
This sport is tough. You only got one chance to make it.
Yeah, sure, sports fans might say that it isn’t true, this is the case of every sport and so. But I want to say that yes, it might be right, but in gymnastics (because that’s what we’re talking about here) there is about one chance. This one for a lifetime.
Avery missed her chance and this made her spin in an endless spiral for seven long years. Until her chance finally came back – this time under a different circumstance (wearing a mask, it was in disguise): Ryan and his coaching offer for a future star of gymnastics.
I loved the gymnastics talk in this. The lingo made me so incredibly happy that I actually went to check out the new Code of Points because I wanted to brush up and upgrade my old perfect imaginary routines. Yeah, I know, I told you – o b s e s s e d. But in my defence, those routines are the shit in my head.
Trust me on this, the gymnastics language is strong in this one, but it is actually educational because it hits you with facts from time to time. It isn’t a bad thing to know a thing or two about this great sport (even though it is a bit complicated sometimes even for us, the ancient gym fans. This sport rocks though).
What I really loved about this was the mental health awareness that seemed to be the centre of the entire plot.
Mental health is truly important in sports in general (and not only, but let’s focus on that right now) and sometimes, the athletes do not know how to cope with their own emotions. Abuse in sports is nothing new and, sadly, it is still largely practised. And I mean every kind of abuse – verbal (calling names), physical (physical punishments), sexual (harassment, molestation).
As I previously said about a thousand times already, gymnastics is a tough sport. A gymnast must be in control over every single mini-muscle of their own body in order to perform the skills required to defy gravity and life. But a strong gymnast knows that aside from the strong body they have, they need to have a strong mind. Brain freezes and panic attacks are definitely common problems a gymnast might face. It happens to the most talented ones, the most decorated ones, the ones that have spent years already in the competition halls or just stepped inside a competition arena for the first time in their lives. Top that with the extreme push they have to give their bodies and an abusive, unhealthy coaching regime, add a tad of any sort of other harassment and there you go – someone has been fucked up for their next two lives.
This book screams TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. It is important to take care of yourself in an environment that may constantly cause you harm. Find the good in everything you’re doing and if there is no good there then you need to change that. Put yourself first and take care. You only live in this body once.
Another important thing here is the importance of the relationships you have with the people around you. It is important to surround yourself with people that love you unconditionally and support your every move without questioning you. The people around you affect you directly so why bother surround yourself with toxic and selfish asswipes when you could just opt for the beautiful love others who are not afraid to show to you could give you?
Sure, I might have loved to see more of Avery and Ryan. I think they were absolutely perfect for each other – they are sweet, cute and dorky together and every time they had a bit of time to talk, they were on the same page. They made me smile with their cuteness. Avery is still a simple, broken girl and Ryan is an adorable and selfless dork and they match like gloves.
I would’ve also loved to see more interactions between Avery and her parents, even though I totally understand the need to escape their obsessive protection from time to time. One should always give back to their parents the love they received but also, it is important to have your independence as a grown-up person, especially when you think you are a failure (oops).
Additional points for Avery’s friendships though. She didn’t have many friends (actually, she had none), but when she did manage to make some, they were keepers. I loved the way they helped each other out and supported each other and that they were genuinely there for each other. Good and trustworthy friendships should be hyped and I mean it.
After reading it from cover to cover, I realised that this book was the perfect analogy for the life of a gymnast – the sport itself occupies let’s say 85% of your entire life. What is outside gymnastics is what remains of you as a being – not much socialising, not much relationship talk, too little normal friendships. But still, one wants all of them to be there and happen.
Head Over Heels sums up pretty well the life some chose to have to live. And I think this book is a perfect metaphor.
Head Over Heels is my first book by Hannah Orenstein and I enjoyed it. I really loved the gymnastics aspect. When the Olympics would come on when I was younger, the only thing I ever wanted to watch was gymnastics and figure skating so it was really cool to see the behind the scenes stuff.
Avery was meant to live her dream as an Olympic gymnast, but a career ending injury stopped her right before she got her shot. She’s now in her mid-twenties and doesn’t have the life she dreamed of. After getting dumped by her ex, she’s back in her hometown to figure her life out. As luck would have it, she gets a call from Ryan, a fellow gymnast, about a coaching job.
Ryan was an Olympic gymnast and now coaches an Olympic hopeful. He isa great coach, but he knows there are things Avery is great at and they would make the perfect team. And they do. Avery not only is a spectacular coach, but she finds herself, and maybe even love along the way.
I loved the Ryan, Avery, and Hallie dynamic and I also loved that Avery found herself and helped her friend Jasmine along the way. I wish the romance aspect would have been stronger, I think that would have made the book so much better for me, but overall I really liked reading this!
I consider myself an Olympics junkie! I can’t get enough and become tied to the TV from opening ceremonies until closing. Being both 🇨🇦 and 🇺🇸 I have two countries to cheer for! So when I learned this book centered around a former Olympic wannabe gymnast I was immediately all in!
Early on, Avery had her sights set on the Olympics. She’d competed in gymnastics her entire young life. An unfortunate performance and injury took away that dream, leaving her to lose all purpose in life. After a short stay in the big city it was time to return home and put the pieces of her life back together. Well, maybe it’s Averys’ destiny to help mold the next generation of young gymnasts. What’s the saying…those that can’t do - teach? 💁🏻♀️ Besides, her former crush Ryan runs the local gym and could use the help. Could it just be the ticket to regaining her life, with the possibility of discovering love along the way?
This book had so much potential but continually bogged down with gymnastics as the primary focus. I wanted the bulk of the story to be on the characters, with the sport merely a backdrop. But more times than not it felt like the opposite.
A buddy read with Susanne!
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for an ARC to read and review
I honestly never knew I was missing a gymnastics-related love story until I found Hannah Orenstein'a Head Over Heels, but boy, was I ever!
Avery spent her entire childhood training to be an Olympic gymnast. She sacrificed any chance at being a “normal” teenager, endured the emotional abuse of her famous coach, stressed about her weight, and dreamed of the Olympics. And in one moment, her dreams and her career ended, leaving her ill-prepared for what came next.
Now, 7 years later, on the heels of breaking up with her football-star boyfriend, she moves home to Massachusetts to live with her parents. Not long after coming home, she gets a call from Ryan, a former Olympic gymnast that she and her best friend used to have a crush on. He asks if she’d be interested in helping coach a teenage gymnast with true Olympic potential.
Avery jumps at the chance to help coach Hallie, and feels like she’s making a difference. She can’t ignore the sparks flying between her and Ryan, but she isn’t sure if she should trust her heart again, and worries a relationship might complicate coaching. And when a scandal rocks the gymnastics world, and an offer is made, everything may be on the line, including any possibility of a relationship with Ryan.
This book hooked me from the very first word. I was nervous because the last two books I read didn’t wow me, but Orenstein pulled me in completely. I felt totally vested in Hallie’s dreams and Avery’s rebuilding her life and, of course, the sparks between her and Ryan.
Even as I knew the typical obstacles were coming, I rooted for everyone and hope things didn’t go too off-course. I also really loved the way Orenstein meshed some serious subjects with the lightness of a rom-com and the nerves around whether or not Hallie would succeed where Avery failed.
Looking for a great new rom-com of sorts? Maybe you’ll flip for Head Over Heels! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
A gold medal read for all gymnastic fans! Are you bummed that there aren’t going to be Olympics this summer? This might be the perfect book to tie you over until next year (hopefully). Hannah Orenstein has spun a fun and uplifting tale. She also didn’t pull any punches when it came to some of the darker parts and scandals surrounding today’s gymnastics. Avery was an elite gymnast who just fell short of making it to the Olympics. Knowing nothing else bud gymnastics Avery went into a deep depression and this led to some destructive behavior. It’s eight years later and Avery has just been dumped by her famous football player boyfriend. She has moved back home and it is time to start over. When Ryan, an old crush and fellow gymnast reaches out to her with a offer to Coach Avery jumps at the chance. Now Avery is back in the same gym she trained in years ago coaching Olympic hopeful Hallie.
Really loved all the gymnastics talk in this book, I’ve always loved watching the sport. Avery was a sympathetic character, I’ve often thought of what happens to those girls that poor everything they have into a sport just to fall a bit short? I really loved the bond between Avery and Hallie I think it was nice that Hallie had someone in her corner that truly understood. Why this book will not be getting a perfect score from me is because of the romance. I really don’t think this is a romance it is more women’s fiction with a dash of romance in the backdrop. Additionally the romance itself just didn’t work for me. I really didn’t see the spark between Ryan and Avery and could not understand what the attraction was other than that they had a crush on one another a decade ago? Not to mention Ryan did a few pretty shady things. This didn’t necessarily detract from my overall enjoyment of the book it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I would be remiss if I did not mention Avery’s amazing roommate Sarah! She had such a great energy and was so supportive to not only Avery but to Hallie as well.
This book in emojis 🤸🏻♀️ ⛸ 🧘🏻♀️ 🥇 🍣 ☕️
*** Big thank you to Atria for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
I was excited to read about this gymnastics' romance. I've always liked watching gymnastics during the Olympics.
I remember when I was a kid, listening to the name Nadia Comăneci so many times. She was a true treasure. I remember watching her routines and to me, they felt flawless. I did gymnastics as a kid but don't remember much now about it. If I tried it now, I probably break something.
The Olympics has always been something I enjoy and look forward to. I also enjoy movies about it, Hockey anyone? And I love The Cutting Edge (toe pick, haha). Anyway, I was ready to start Head Over Heels.
Avery Abrams is ready for a new beginning. Her career as an aspiring gymnast in the Olympic team came crashing after she suffered an accident during the Trials. For Avery, this event is devastating. As a kid, teenager, and adult, she never had a desire to do anything else but this sport. So when this avenue closes, she feels uncertain, demoralized, and depressed. To makes matters worse, she never finished college and never trained to do anything else in life.
When her current boyfriend's career as a football player catapults him to stardom, she is left behind. With her heartbroken and nowhere else to turn to, she travels back home, to live with her parents and dwell on her sorrow.
Then, Ryan, an ex-Olympic athlete approaches her. He's currently training Hallie, a teenager with an amazing future in the field if only with the right guidance. Ryan knows he needs help coaching Hallie on the floor routine and he knows Avery is the person to do it.
I enjoyed most of the story. It was nice to learn more about the terms in gymnastics and how incredibly demanding this sport is. What didn't click for me was the actual romance. I never felt like Ryan was invested. The exchanges were cold and short. To me, Avery's relationship with Hallie, Jasmine and Sara was better developed than hers with Ryan.
3/5 Fangs A complimentary copy was provided by Atria Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Looking for a new contemporary romance? Wanting to feel uplifted? Craving a new binge read? Check out Head Over Heels! Oh, and hello yellow cover!
Head Over Heels is about gymnast Avery Abrams. She was headed for the Olympics and with one performance, those hopes were dashed. Her best friend, Jasmine, went on to the Olympics and came home a champion. AND she married Dimitri, their coach.
Avery returns home to start over, and meets a coach at the gym named Ryan. He asks for her help in coaching a new prodigy set for the Olympics. Avery and Ryan have chemistry and a scandal happens...
Avery was the best character! The best! I enjoyed the gymnastics backdrop, and it added some of the content pulled from the headlines in recent years related to gymnastics. Overall, I loved Head Over Heels and couldn’t binge read it fast enough.
I received a gifted copy. All opinions are my own.
I don't know if Hallmark have made a gymnastic film in recent years but if they did I imagine it would be similar to this book.
This was a light read with a nod to difficult subjects however I found the MCs a little bland. Avery and I didn't exactly get off on the right foot but as we get to know her i understand why and I did like her growth during the book & was ultimately happy with how it all shakes out for her . Ryan seemed like a solid enough love interest although some of his decisions left a lot to be desired and although he makes a valiant effort to redeem himself it just seems too easy 🤷♀️ Really I think that is my main issue with this read. It touches on tough topics but ultimately it is all a little too easy, surface level & box ticky 🤗
What I did really like, unsuprisingly, were the strong female friendships and the women helping women narrative promoted as the story unfolds. The interactions with Hallie, Sara & were highlights and I deffo enjoyed all the gymnastic speak as I've been seriously binging any and all gymnastics meet videos I can on YouTube. I do enjoy the sport and while I have never participated myself so cannot speak to the accuracy of its representation here - aside from the order of the events in competition...I thought Olympic order was vault/bars/beam/floor. Meaning if you start on bars you would then finish on vault but that is a needlessly nitpicky thing and I'm not even sure that's correct 🤔 (plus I get why the author made the choices she did here for the story). As I said I've never done the sport nor attended an actual meet so please do not quote me on this! While I did love the sort of peek behind the curtain we get at the training and run up to competitions I would have liked more! There are other competitions between Worlds & Nationals (which I think is a 2 day meet although I did love the nod made to SB with the teal leo) and also there is a selection committee & a head coach for the National Squad/Olympics who is involved in training camps etc in the build up. I mean I get why we didn't have time and couldn't see all this on page but it could have all been mentioned/alluded to more. Emphasis is made on the difficulties of Elite Gymnastics and I liked how the toll it takes on the athletes was handled in and out of the sport but again I think my expectations were off on this and perhaps I was just way too invested considering my viewing habits 😅 *sigh* I just wanted more of everything from this story which is possibly unfair of me as my expectations for a sports romance read were obvs just way off on this one and it was all just a much lighter touch than I'd been hoping for. This was a quick read, more chicklit than the steamier reads I tend to gravitate to and I expected this but I still just wanted a bit more grit from this the tougher topics were just brushed upon and it was all just a little bit lighter than I thought it would be I guess. Not at all a bad book - just not necessarily for me. Still glad I read it for the gymnastics 🤗
21/8/20 - Snapped this for just over $2 on kindle today! Hopefully others can do the same!
The Blurb for this brings to mind the Melissa Rauch, Sebastian Stan, Thomas Middleditch film The Bronze - although I haven't seen it, I wanted to & somehow I think this will be less foul-mouthed 😅
When opportunity knocks for Avery Abrams, a former gymnast, she takes it. The day her old friend (a/k/a crush, Ryan) calls and offers down and out Avery a job coaching Olympic hopeful, Hallie, Avery agrees.
Years after losing everything that meant something to her, Avery’s life finally has purpose. Training Hallie. It’s just a bonus that she gets to spend everyday with Ryan. Everything is going great, personally and professionally, until Ryan considers taking a job with Powerhouse and Avery’s former emotionally abusive coach Dimitri, and taking Hallie with him.
What’s a girl to do when everything she has worked so hard for is about to go up in flames?
“Head of Heels” by Hannah Orenstein started out sweet and had promise. Unfortunately for me it lost it a bit as the budding love story between Avery and Ryan quickly fizzled due to the way that he treated Avery. While I enjoyed the relationship between Avery and Hallie, there simply wasn’t enough of it for me to feel invested. In the end, my favorite part of this novel was the friendships between Avery and Sarah and Avery and Jasmine - they were portrayed very honestly and I felt that both were the strongest part of the novel. While I didn’t buy into the romance, I enjoyed the friendship and think that if you love the idiosyncrasies of gymnastics, you’ll love this novel.
This was a buddy read with Kaceey.
Thank you to Atria Books and Hannah Orenstein for the arc.
Eight years ago, Avery Abrams lost her chance of achieving her life-long dream in one instant. After training her whole life to become a part of the Olympic gymnastics team, a major injury that she sustained during the most important competition of her life, the Olympic trials, ended her career as an athlete. She was understandably devastated and when all her backup plans (primarily meaning college) didn’t pan out, she found her life tumbling out of control.
A years-long relationship with a famous American football player kept her grounded for a period, but the spark between them inevitably fizzled out. No relationship, no career, and now, no home - she was living with her boyfriend and has no place of her own. Avery chooses what so many 20-somethings out of options do: she goes home again.
Only for Avery, when she arrives back at her parents’ house in Massachusetts, it feels like living with the ghost of her glory days. Her talent and trajectory back in the day made her something of a hometown hero. These days, she doesn’t feel like much of a hero. She really needs a job, first of all.
Because she lives inside of a novel, Avery gets a phone call from a gymnastics coach at the gym where she trained throughout her young life. This guy calling her was not only her childhood crush when she was younger, but he’s now working at her former gym, training a very talented teenager for the Olympics. He wants to know if Avery wants a job helping with her floor routine, since that’s a trouble point and an area in which Avery has expertise: she was especially strong on floor in her younger years. Returning to her former gym stirs up lots of feelings and memories, but she commits to the job.
There’s a lot going on in this book. Avery returns to the gymnastics world, only as a coach this time. Avery and her former crush (Ryan) start to catch some feelings. Avery must confront her childhood friend who did go onto the Olympics and achieved everything Avery dreamed of doing. The past in general comes back to haunt Avery as she thinks about what might have been, but also is still feeling the effects of the verbal and emotional abuse of her own former coach, who is still a prominent name. And finally, she and all the rest of the gymnastics world must figure out how to confront a massive, upsetting scandal that erupts.
The book takes major inspiration from what’s actually been going on in the gymnastics world over the last few years. It essentially takes the gymnastics world we know and moves it over one dimension so it’s basically the same world, only with different famous gymnasts. Oh, and in that dimension, the coronavirus didn’t cause the 2020 summer Olympics to become the 2021 summer Olympics. Knowing the author wrote this and the publisher scheduled this to line up with said summer Olympics, was a bit awkward. And sad, really.
The main issue with this book is breadth over depth. The author was highly ambitious in what all she wanted to include, but because of that, no one element is explored fully. Everything is muted as a result.
There are some passages that show Avery’s pupil, Hallie, performing, but the author mainly calls moves by their names instead of painting a picture for the reader. I had to look up YouTube videos to see what actually would have been happening during these parts. Now, I may be the kind of reader who enjoys researching things surrounding the books I read, but if I need to turn outside of the book to get a mental picture of what’s going on inside of the book, the author has done me wrong.
The female characters were a little same-y and Ryan has barely any personality. Even when his actions are causing a problem, you can’t even get mad at him because he does everything in the blandest way possible. Dairy Queen Vanilla. Not even Breyers level (or, what Breyers used to be before they ruined it).
Rinse and repeat for the other elements listed above; nothing is done especially poorly, it’s just not done all that well. It was fun for what it was and provided a needed substitute for the gymnastics video binge-watching I had planned to do this summer, but I’m docking points for execution (sorry, I had to). 2.75 stars, rounded up to 3.
Head Over Heels is only my second book by Hannah Orenstein but I knew going into it that it was going to be a winner and I was right! This book is Romcom perfection and I would love to see it as a movie.
I can't even tell you in proper words how much I loved this book. My sister was in gymnastics when she was younger, but I never really took much interest in it, and that definitely changed reading Head Over Heels. I was fascinated by everything surrounding the gymnastics parts of the book, which were many, and I love how Orenstein balanced it with tough, important topics, humor, and romance. This is a book that I could see being perfect for TV, and it's not really steamy so it was a little like a heavier Hallmark movie - LOVE!
As was the case with the last book I read by Orenstein (Love at First Like), the writing flows so well and I was fully engaged the entire time. I loved both Avery and her relationship with Hallie equally, and I found myself spilling tears of joy at the end of the book which is why I'm calling it a bit of a tear-jerker. I also enjoyed the romance between Avery and Ryan although that honestly felt like a bonus to the story, whereas Hallie and Avery's relationship and Avery's self-doubts then rebirth really shine through as the main stars.
If you haven't read a book by Orenstein yet, or if you have and already know you love them, I very highly recommend reading Head Over Heels especially if you are at all interested in gymnastics or books set around that sport. This would make a perfect summer or beach read as well, and I can't wait to see what this author writes next because you know I will be reading it!
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advance review copy of this book, all opinions and thoughts are my own.
This was my BOTM pick for July, and even though rom-com is so not my genre, when I read that this was a book about women's gymnastics, I couldn't pass it up. When I was young, my first-ever girl crush on Mary-Lou Retton, and I even took gymnastics for several years before realizing that Olympic gold was not in my future; but I have been a huge fan of women's gymnastics ever since. As I can't watch it this summer, I decided I might as well read about it!
The plot of this book is pretty standard, and I guessed almost the entire storyline based on the back cover blurb alone. After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended Avery Abrams's gymnastics career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their much-older, abusive coach, Dimitri. After a break-up, Avery returns to her hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations.
It's fairly obvious where the storyline goes from here - a lightweight sports romance with a "ripped from the headlines" element with no real surprises. Still, because of the gymnastics element, I found myself wholly committed. If I’m honest, I enjoyed reading about Avery’s journey much more than I did the romance aspect. I thought Ryan's character was rather flat and didn't add much of anything, but it could hardly be a romance without the Avery/Ryan storyline. I thought Orenstein did a fantastic job with the gymnastics "lingo" and with the depth of emotions that go along with the roller coaster ride of the "one shot and done" reality of women's gymnastics.
Head Over Heels is a light, engaging read that portrays just how complicated real life can be, even for elite athletes, and that it’s okay to fall apart, as you’ll eventually find your way back. Overall, a good salve to soothe the burn of no summer Olympics and gymnastics, with just a few deductions for characters and execution. 3.5 blood, sweat, and chalk stars!
This book is my first gymnastics read, and I was fascinated by the world, its dynamics, and the tireless effort required to win. Avery was the main character, but the secondary characters have depths too. I was just as vested in Halle’s success as an athlete as I was in her coach, Avery. Avery went into massive depression when she lost the chance to compete at the Olympics due to an injury, incidentally ending her career as a renowned gymnast. Faced with a recent breakup from a longtime relationship, she had to pick up the pieces of her life and find a way of the rut. It was a fast and easy read. I enjoyed it very much. 4 stars.
This book is so amazing. I could not stop reading it and I just love how it champions women in sports. I simply consumed the story. I could not put it down. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I’m not sure what it was about this book that got to me. Whether it was the vulnerability of the characters or maybe it was the fact you’re connecting with someone who’s lost everything and is struggling to find a place in the world.
Maybe it was the fact it was written in first person so you just become a part of the story. Maybe it was because the author just created a character with multi layers of vulnerability, shame, strength, and incredible insight to others.
Whatever it was that struck me about the story, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is it’s refreshing and it’s a story that hits you on so many different levels.
Orenstein gives us that love and passion for the sport, deep caring for the athlete you’re charged with along with that touch of romance that sparks when you meet someone you used to know. You connect with all of the emotions she lays out.
The author added so many levels into this book that it just pulls you forward page by page. The highs and the lows then ultimate healing and finding yourself again made for a terrific story. She even got a few tears out of me at the end.
I loved this story! It’s really like none other I’ve read before and that’s what makes it so special. It’s more than just a book. It’s an experience that you certainly don’t want to miss!
🤸♂️🤸♀️ ARC received in exchange for an honest review.
Isn't it funny how the world works? When Hannah Orenstein wrote this novel, it never in a million years would have crossed anyone's minds that the 2020 Olympics would be postponed. In the history of the games, they have only been cancelled three times due to both World Wars. Hannah addresses this in her forward for her story, stating that no-one could have foreseen the advent of a global pandemic that would push back the greatest sports competition in the world. Her novel is set in the run up to the 2020 Olympics for a promising gymnast and her coaches. It's a story of what could have been, a story of hope and promise, and I think that's a message that truly resonates with the current times, regardless of its accuracy.
Avery is a former elite gymnast who's dreams were shattered following a career ending injury that resulted in a spiral into alcohol abuse and depression. When her whole life's obsession came to an abrupt end, she felt lost and without a true purpose in life. This wasn't helped by the presence of an overly abusive coach who instilled the idea that she was worthless without the sport. Following a breakup which results in a move back to her old town, old memories resurface for Avery that she has tried so hard to forget. When a fellow former pro, Ryan, asks her to help coach a promising new star to the sport, Avery struggles with her feelings of resentment mixed with her overriding need to protect her new pupil from the harm she suffered. It also doesn't help that Ryan is a former crush who seems to have got better with age.
This wasn't your typical romance novel, and I loved the fresh approach to the genre. Avery and Ryan spend a good portion of the novel training their pupil Hallie while struggling to separate their feelings for each other from their roles as coaches. It creates a lot of angst and tension that lends itself well to the story. There's a lot of history between them that they share, a lot of stories about being an elite gymnast and the sacrifices this entails that naturally draws them towards each other. They just understand what the other has been through, and Ryan can appreciate that Avery has given up so much. By taking on this job of coaching Hallie, she's essentially reliving her youth. A childhood that not many people would understand.
Gymnastics is an integral part of the plot, often even to the extent of forcing the romance into the background. I think that if you go into this expecting the normal formulaic approach to a romance novel, you will be disappointed. There's no smut. Nothing is particularly graphic. And it doesn't need to be. The author clearly has a passion for gymnastics, and this shines through with a lot of the plot dedicated to describing specific moves and training methods, as well as the social and psychological traumas that gymnasts face. It's a refreshing take on the genre, and one I greatly appreciated. I will say that if you perhaps don't have a basic grasp on some famous gymnastic moves (ie the Pak Salto) they you may struggle to visualise some of the descriptive training sessions. I would defiantly recommend going on Youtube to look up some of the more complicated moves, and really immerse yourself in this world.
I will say that I wish more time had been dedicated to explore Avery's old coach Demitri and his behaviour. A lot of his actions are described by the characters, or seen in very small flashbacks, but I think it would have been more impactful to have seen his behaviour play out throughout the story. He's rather enigmatic, and rarely speaks 'on the page' but rather through the voice of another character, and because of this he looses a bit of his power. I also thought that the subplot with the Dr and the #metoo movement is glossed over and not dealt with to the full extent I would have liked. Hallie seems to forget what happens in her in her goal to reach Trials (which is understandable), but also felt a bit of a let down. At times I also thought that the conflict between Avery and Ryan felt a little forced, and too easily resolved (especially on Ryan's side).
I really enjoyed this sports heavy look into a fascinating world. It plays to my love of the sport without relying too heavily on romantic relationships. It's more about the relationships between coaches, pupils, colleagues and friends in an intense and unique environment that few will ever understand. Adding human elements of love and betrayal only strengthen the emotional connection to the story, and helped immerse myself in this world. A great read for all gymnastic lovers.
When I first started this book, I wasn't entirely sure how I felt, but surprisingly, it grew on me
I don't have much experience or knowledge or background on gymnastics, especially not Olympic level, but i did binge watch Make It or Break It when I was 17, so you have to give me some credit here
This is the story of Avery, an Olympic level gymnast who had to quit due to severe injury and now has to figure out her life now that the most important thing about it is taken away
This book is centered around gymnastics, which I thought was pretty cool. Friendship, which I also find very pretty cool. And romance, which was okay, but also kind of dramatic (especially with the last act break-up scene.....could have done without, tbh)
Overall, I think it was a good read, I enjoyed listening to it, but probably not something I would think back on now that I'm finished.
I received a copy of this title from NetGalley. It does not impact my review.
I always enjoy watching the Olympics and was pretty disappointed to hear that they are going to be postponed until next year. Head Over Heels looked like a good way to get a small Olympics fix in the mean time. However, it wasn’t really much more than that.
I was pretty bored throughout most of this book. I did enjoy the gymnastics included and reading about Hallie’s training routine as she prepared for the Olympic trials. I just wish there was a little more of an inside look. I feel like everything shared are things you can pick up by watching any of the countless features that play during the Olympics every year. There’s a lot more said about how hard gymnasts work than actually showing them working that hard.
I also never really cared about the romance. Avery and Ryan had crushes on each other as kids and their crushes have bled over into adulthood and they get together fairly quickly. I didn’t feel invested in their relationship at all, so when things went poorly and then got better, I just didn’t care. They could have ended the books as just friends and I wouldn’t have minded.
I expected a lot more to be said about the sexual abuse scandal, as well. It follows a lot of what happened in real life, just with fictional names. The doctor that is accused is one that made Hallie feel uncomfortable once, but thankfully nothing more than that happened with her. There’s a lot of talk about backlash online and a hearing scheduled for the doctor, but no type of resolution. I felt like from the synopsis this would be a major part of the plot, but it mostly stayed in the background. Avery and her old training partner come together to create a foundation to help the mental and emotional health of gymnasts and even that is barely addressed.
Overall, Head over Heels was not really for me. I would have liked for things to be more developed. It felt like just the bare minimum was done in terms of character development, relationship development, gymnastic research, and #MeToo details. What should have been interesting and emotional came off as boring and superficial. This is the second book I’ve tried by this author and I think it will probably be my last.
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein was a novel I truly enjoyed. This book definitely was a lot different than her previous works, and I have seen such a difference in her writing - while this one took on more serious themes of emotional abuse and #metoo movement. This was a very important topic that I did see in the headlines about the gymnastics world, and the ongoing emotional and physical abuse from the people they most trusted and relied on. I felt that Orenstein wrote about this with such grace and compassion for the characters, and the amazing writing really hooked me in. This read more as a women's contemporary fiction rather than a romcom.
I loved the protagonist. Avery was a competitive gymnast and an Olympic hopeful who lost the chance from an injury. She starts school at UCLA and meets her boyfriend, a famous football player with whom after four years had a very devastating breaks up with her. With nowhere to go, Avery returns to her hometown and back to her parents' home. While there, she was offered a chance to coach an Olympic hopeful and rekindles a second chance romance meeting Ryan again, who was also in the gymnastics circuit when Avery was competing.
I think that when Orenstein was writing this, the issues of COVID and the cancellation of the summer Olympics in Tokyo was not even a consideration, so you may have to just accept that in this fictional world in this novel. It sure made me miss the Summer Olympics very much.
I have to mention in this novel and give kudos to how Orenstein in this novel captured the gymnastics world - the writing was very well researched and captured the details of the technical aspects of the elite gymnastics competition. For me personally, I enjoyed it immensely and I certainly appreciated the research that went to writing this book.
I thought the romance was great. It focused on Avery and Ryan's relationship and their career as coaches to an up and coming Olympic gymnast. The characters were very relatable especially for those wanting second chances not just in love but in life as well.
I enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it as a women's contemporary fiction read that tackled important themes and subject matter. A great read I really enjoyed that captivated me into the high stakes world of competitive gymnastics.
But the reason why I gave this book an average rating was because I was expecting a cute, fluffy and full of banter book (there was hardly any banter between the main character and the love interest), because it is indeed categorized as a chicklit/romance, and when you start reading that sort of a genre you expect unrealistic yet cute romantic gestures between the main characters, a never ending witty interactions and etc. But this book focused more on atheletes and how does it feel like being one and/or practicing for major sport events (Olympics in this case) and I guess it was kind of refreshing seeing that the major plot wasn't just romance.
One of the things I wasn't on board with this book was that the dialogues were too surfaced and fell flat, there were barely any depth to them.
Overall, it was fun and I liked it, but there were also triggering topics.
************* Dear authors,
Please write more rom-com books about athletes.
Sincerely, Not the most athletic person on planet Earth.
The second main reason I decided to read this book (beside it being about athletes) is because of the title. It's one of my favorite Tears for Fears songs. XD
Surprisingly, I enjoyed this one. I was wary due to the mixed ratings. First off, I am absolutely clueless about gymnastics. This book did NOT disappoint though. I loved the 3 main characters. There was SO much character growth for all of them throughout the story. So many good life lessons in this book. It just makes you feel good after fully reading it. I loved it!
This was a great book for gymnastics lovers! The story of a former gymnast who missed the Olympics due to an injury, and after feeling directionless in life for a while, has returned to her hometown to coach a new prodigy. I really liked the coaching parts in this as well as the examination of abuse in coaching and sexual abuse in the sport. There was a romantic relationship in there that was a minor subplot, but the main thing I really enjoyed was the coaching and self-reflection aspect as well as the examination of the sport as a whole. This was a great debut that brought back lots of memories of watching the Olympics!
Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
While I have zero interest in team sports, I love those that combine music and grace, such as gymnastics and ballet, and also fencing. I'll gladly read fiction about these three.
In this novel that focuses on women's gymnastics, Avery is an ex-Olympic contender--that is, she didn't make it past Olympic trials. I thought Orenstein did an excellent job with the psychological damage of knowing that your professional life (which is going to be very short anyway) is over at age nineteen. After spending every waking moment training.
She is dumped by her pro football boyfriend, who feels she isn't going anywhere, and she moves home to mom and dad, a washed-up has-been in her twenties. But then she gets a call from a high school crush, Ryan, who was training in men's gymnastics, to help coach a rising star of sixteen years.
Once we get to that part of the story, I was in it hard. I loved how Orenstein balanced the characters: Hallie is a very convincing girl, driven, determined, with ambitious but wary parents behind her. (Not the insane parents who live through forcing their kid into being a prodigy, which is a different sort of story). Avery recognizes herself in Hallie's absolute commitment, and though she is not a trained coach, she is reaching into her own experience of abuse from a trainer lauded as the best, and trying to find a way to bring Hallie to excellence without the toxic psychological fallout.
A secondary thread of sexual abuse of these teenage athletes runs alongside the story, weaving in deftly. So much rides on these girls, and their time in the sun is so brief, but so exhilarating if they make it to the top.
Avery has to come to terms with a new life, which brings us to the romantic thread. She has a lot of baggage, not helped by Ryan's obliviousness to how very different the training is for girls, and the emotional scars it causes.
The romance, though overall convincing, can feel a bit scanted--it lurches a bit between Problem/Resolution, and the present tense does not help. In fact, the present tense, which seems to be The Thing now in YA fiction, really hurts the start of the novel when so much is backstory. Present tense flashbacks, unless actual scene rather than summary, draw too much attention to narrative "tell." And there is a lot of it--all necessary for understanding Avery's own emotional register. (I wish the author had begun with that devastating failure, then present tense would have unleashed its full strength.)
But once Avery started her new job, I was with this story all the way to the gracefully achieved end. I really like the note the book ended on, in fact. Overall, a solid look at the cost of talent plus drive, and how those don't always equal agency.
2.5⭐️ this book would’ve been better off without that half assed romance storyline. Overall, it kind of fell flat. I was never bored but you could’ve snatched this book away from me at any point and told me I could never finish it… and I would not have cared.
There were so many opportunities to give us an I interesting story. The sexual/psychological abuse in gymnastics. The marriage between Jasmine and the former couch. The relationship between our two super vanilla main characters. The young girl trying to make it to the Olympics. They all had serious potential. But alas, no.
All of you might've grown up in families that obsessively watched football, basketball, or baseball, but in my family, that sport was and still is gymnastics. (Simone Biles? We! Knew! Her! First!) So imagine my delight when Hannah Orenstein announced an entire book centered on the sport, one where she really got to show off all of her insider knowledge about how it works.
Head Over Heels is my favorite kind of book: It's got some lighter and more uplifting storylines while also addressing some of the very real and dark issues that are present not just in elite athletics but also in growing into adulthood. Orenstein elegantly captures the anxiety and depression that can come from chasing a big goal at such a young age, only to watch it blow up in your face at the final buzzer, as well as how to figure out what it means to stand up for your principles in the face of adversity.
Just a brief content warning: Because this novel pulls from what's happened very publicly in the gymnastics world over the past several years, be aware that there are discussions of sexual assault, disordered eating, and emotional abuse.