This is the first book that I received from Netgalley- so thank you to them.
I have all the mixed feelings about this book. It took me about three times as long to read it as it should have and there were definitely parts that I did not like. Where to start?
Savannah is probably the blandest character in the whole book. Which isn’t good as she is the main character. Aside from gymnastics (which she has given up), being a decent student and being unable to drive I know absolutely nothing about what she does and does not like. Who she is, what she stands for. I don’t know. She is sort of a blank but also has angst. I get that giving up gymnastics was difficult for her but I don’t understand how that relates to having no personality.
I quite liked Marcos (the love interest). Actually, I think that I liked Marcos more than Savannah liked Marcos. I mean, aside from his hair smelling like coconut, she really doesn’t seem to pay much attention to him. She doesn’t really try to get to know him. I can’t speak to the representation in this book but I found him to be a very positive character. (But I know nothing so feel free to contradict.)
Cassie, Cassie, Cassie. I didn’t like her. I didn’t like her even the slightest and I am one of those weird overly empathetic people who feels bad about the killer in slasher movies (I mean, more for their victims but the killers make me sad). The friendship between Savannah and Cassie is so toxic. She deliberately isolates Savannah from other friends, emotionally manipulates her, and puts her future in jeopardy. I know that she has a ton of trouble of her own but I couldn’t figure out why I should care. Nothing meaningful ever came to light about what drives her or how she really feels. (I am starting to see a pattern here)
The thing that really bothered me about this book was the fact that the racism both obvious and subtle was never explicitly addressed. And there is a ton of it. There is graffiti sprayed on lockers, Latinx characters are constantly harassed and often physically assaulted. And nothing is ever done about it. Savannah never really has a problem with it except when it directly affects her. Everything becomes about Savannah even when it shouldn’t be. Marcos is getting harassed and into a fight? Somehow all about Savannah. There is so much othering in this book. I was also disappointed in Savannah because she was focused on really weird parts of the conflict. “Oh, nos! My boyfriend keeps getting in fights with racists and my best friend tells me I can’t handle that!” focusing on herself rather than the fact that her boyfriend is daily dealing with racial harassment. I know that she was portrayed to be doing the right thing but her reactions, actions, and inactions really bothered me.
That being said this book was more disappointing than terrible. I know that I sound as if I am tearing it apart and that I hated it. I didn’t but the underlying issues took me out of the story pretty often. So, what did I like? Frankly, I liked the gymnastics. I was one of those flipping little girls for years and years and Gallagher shows familiarity and affection for the sport. The times when Savannah is at the gym or competing are by far the best passages in the book. She has the feel down cold. However much the rest of the novel struck me as “off” the gymnastics portions were spot on.
This book did have me YouTubing (I am making this a verb, okay?) the 1992 Olympic All-Around competition because I kept thinking about Tatiana Gutsu as I read. That standing full twisting back tuck on the beam still impresses me.
I also enjoyed watching her relationship with her father develop. She starts off with such a negative attitude towards him and it is wonderful to see her start to understand and accept that he has and will always be there for her. I am a fan of strong father-daughter relationships in novels.
There is some interesting symbolism with Savannah’s name. Cassie changes it from Caitlyn to Savannah (her middle name) when they are small. Cassie literally changes Savannah’s identity to fit what she wants from her. At the end of the book, Savannah is talking with a recruiter from a college and corrects him by telling him her name is Caitlyn. This is Savannah reclaiming her identity.
In the end: Come for the gymnastics but you might not be interested in staying for much more.
LESSON ONE: Playing it safe beats taking chances.
After an injury ends Savannah’s dream of a college gymnastics scholarship, she quits
despite her parents’ protests. She won’t risk breaking her body—and heart—again.
LESSON TWO: Catch your best friend when she falls—or regret it forever.
Rules are meant to be broken, according to Savannah’s best friend, Cassie—and it’s more fun to break them together. But when Cassie attempts suicide, Savannah’s left wondering how well she really knows her.
LESSON THREE: Leaping forward, not knowing where you’ll land, is the hardest of all.
Falling for Marcos wasn’t part of the plan. Not only did he save Cassie’s life, he also believes Savannah can still achieve her dreams. Except Cassie thinks Marcos and gymnastics will only break Savannah’s heart.
As Savannah tumbles and twists through toxic friendships and crushing parental expectations, she realizes you never know who will be there when you fall.