Leta’s Book Review: It’s All in How You Fall by Sarah Henning

I never thought that I’d like sports romances since I wasn’t one of those kids who played sports. I’ve always been a nerd more than anything else. Also, I never thought I’d be someone who liked contemporary romances. But I’ve read a few of them in the last few months and hot damn! are they just perfect to read in between the heavy genres that I frequent like fantasy and thrillers.

It’s All in How You Fall is a contemporary sports romance by Sarah Henning, the author of the Kingdom of Sands and Sky trilogy. Henning’s style is well-suited to writing young adult fantasy, but it shines brighter in a fictional real-world setting.

Caroline is a champion gymnast struggling with chronic back pain in the opening of the novel. As she soon finds out, her back pain is much worse than she thought, and it forces her into retirement from gymnastics at age fifteen. As she barely begins to process the devastation this has caused her, summer arrives and with it comes Alex Zavala, her brother’s best friend since diapers. Seeing her pain and realizing that her family isn’t going to be able to help her, Alex offers to teach her a variety of sports throughout the summer so that she can find a team to play on once school starts. And so, begins a summer of sports, sweating, and Caroline trying to set up Alex with one of her best friends in exchange for his help.

There are a few main reasons I tend to stay away from contemporary romance novels. Firstly, many of them rely on tropes like Miscommunication or Big Fat Secret (no idea if these are real trope names, but they make sense to me), and I can’t stand people being dishonest or secretive when it’s literally a detriment to every relationship in their lives. It’s far too frustrating to read about since I know how much I’d hate that in real life. Second, they aren’t exciting enough to me. The romance itself usually doesn’t hold enough tension and conflict usually has to come from somewhere like secrets (see reason one). It’s the reason I prefer fantasy with big, epic plots and world-ending risks.

It’s All in How You Fall felt different. There was Miscommunication, but not in the same way and the way it was handled was *chef’s kiss* brilliant. As for tension and conflict, it was all internal conflict without Caroline’s mind. She had so many feelings and worries about quitting gymnastics that were all so realistic, it was an endless supply of conflict. It was portrayed as grief, which worked quite well. Caroline was grieving the life she thought she would live, over and over, while being told that she’s young and has so many possibilities ahead of her. I don’t know exactly what that feels like, but I do know what it’s like to imagine your life one way for years before suddenly having things turn completely around. My situation was a choice instead of a forced retirement, but I still grieve the life I thought I’d have in some ways. (I traded it for something better and more sustainable, don’t worry! I made the best choice for me.)

The romance itself was adorable and felt natural. As with every romance, you know who’s probably going to end up with who, but then how is the big question. Watching Caroline and Alex move through the summer and get all sweaty together—learning/teaching sports, of course—was fun and exciting. I was rooting for them the entire time and invested in how their relationship would play out.

The other part I enjoyed was the sports, which I really didn’t expect. I’m a huge hockey fan (Vancouver Canucks…because I’m a BC girl), but I’ve never been interested in playing sports myself, either competitively or non-competitively. It was so cool to see Alex have such a passion for what he does (which is play competitively in tennis, basketball, and soccer) and be able to share that with Caroline while respecting that she’s just lost that feeling about her sport and might not find it with something different.

It’s All in How You Fall will be at the top of my list for recommendations for a while. A cute teen sports romance with just the right about of drama, this novel will capture the hearts of both older and younger readers. Though the characters were 15/16, they didn’t feel immature to me and that was refreshing. If you’re looking for the perfect summer romance or beach read this year, definitely pick up a copy of It’s All in How You Fall. It’s short, quick, and sure to make you smile.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5


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