Review: Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
I know I haven’t posted a review for you all in a long time. Some major life changes have happened over the last six weeks, mainly the ending of my two-year long relationship, so I’ve taken some time for myself to heal and reflect. I plan to write more on that later, but I wanted to be honest with you readers. After all, that’s the “life” half of Life Meets Literature.
On a more important topic: Black Lives Matter. Since the murder of George Floyd, I along with so many of you have been reading, listening, and sharing important information about the racial injustices that Black people face every day in America. I wanted to devote time to listening to voices that have been ignored and overlooked for far too long. More people are speaking out than ever before, but I want to be clear that the last three or so weeks cannot and will not be enough. We have to keep this momentum up and continue to fight racial injustice every day. We have to listen to the voices who experience this racism and do our best to be anti-racist. As Ibram X. Kendi reminds us, it’s not enough to just be not racist; we have to strive towards anti-racism every day. Personally, I have been ordering more books from Black authors and have only been supporting Black-owned bookstores this month. I’ve always strived to have a diverse and inclusive book collection, but after a recent audit of my shelves, I saw that I had not done enough. You will also notice that I will no longer be sharing Amazon affiliate links on this blog but will instead be linking you to various Black-owned bookstores for you to order books that I review. I have ended partnerships and subscriptions with companies that have not done well enough for their Black influencers, authors, and customers. I have made several donations to organizations like the Minnesota Freedom Fund and the Equal Justice Initiative. A friend and I have teamed up to kick off an Anti-Racist Book Club next month, where we will be discussing books on the topic. Those will also be written about here so that we may continue the conversation. I’ve also been trying to share as many helpful resources as I can find over on my Instagram stories, which I’ve saved in my “Black Lives Matter” highlight for you to find. I have had those tough conversations with friends and family about why saying “all lives matter” is so dismissive, damaging, and disrespectful. No matter what our positions in life are, there is so much that each of us can do to help. I hope you are also committed to this work, as it is not even nearly over. I plan to continue to listen, learn, and share as much as I can as we continue to fight racial injustice. And now, onto today’s review:
Thank you so much to the team at Atria Books for reaching out to me and inviting me to be a part of the Blogger Tour for Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein. It’s been a while since I’ve had so much fun reading a book. Reading the synopsis of Orenstein’s newest novel got me so excited. Gymnastics was the first sport I did as a child. I never did it competitively, but I loved my time in the sport. It is still my favorite sport to watch during the Olympics. When I saw that Head Over Heels is about a retired gymnast, I gravitated towards it instantly. I also appreciated that the author included a note to the reader in the beginning of the book. While the events of the book surround the lead up to and pursuit of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, we all now know that they will not be happening this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us are also well aware that countless gymnasts have spoken out about USA Gymnastics national team doctor, Larry Nassar, who sexually abused so many young women over the years. This topic is also covered in the novel so if that is a triggering topic for you, proceed with caution. Hannah Orenstein invites us to “escape into a world in which the coronavirus pandemic does not happen, the  Olympics go on as planned, and gymnasts deserving of justice chase their dreams.”
Avery Abrams had trained as a gymnast for her entire life to chase her dreams of being an Olympian. But at the 2012 Olympic Trials, she suffered an accident and injury that ended those dreams forever. Her best friend Jasmine, however, made the team and went on to be an Olympic champion and married their strict, emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri. After the end of her long-term relationship with football star, Tyler, Avery heads home to Massachusetts to figure out the next step in her life. During dinner one night with her parents, she receives a phone call from former fellow gymnast, Ryan, asking her to return to her old gym, Summit, to help train Hallie, a young 2020 Olympic hopeful. She returns to the world of gymnastics but is not prepared for the chemistry she discovers between herself and Ryan. When a scandal hits the gymnastics world, Avery must re-evaluate her place in this world.
One of my favorite themes that I took away from Head Over Heels is that of female friendship. Since elite gymnastics is such a highly competitive sport, I did not expect to learn so much about the friendship between gymnasts and the power of sticking together. On a personal level, I obviously related heavily to Avery’s breakup with her ex-boyfriend Tyler (insert big exaggerated eye roll at how close to home this hits). I’ve had to re-evaluate my own life and what my future looks like now that it will not look the way that I thought it would. I think so many of us can relate to having our world’s turned upside down in so many ways, especially right now. Avery’s story teaches us so much about using that to fuel us into our next life chapter, and I am so grateful to have discovered and read this book at this moment in my life.
Head Over Heels comes out this Tuesday June 23rd! Check out the link below to order your copy! Thank you again to the team at Atria Books for inviting to be a stop along this Blogger Tour!
Click HERE to order Head Over Heels from Chicago’s only Black woman owned bookstore, SemiColonChi!
TW: sexual abuse discussed