Welcome to my stop on the TBR and Beyond Tours Book Tour for It’s All In How You Fall by Sarah Henning. I had only read Sea Witch by Sarah Henning before reading It’s All In How You Fall, so I was curious how her writing would work in a contemporary setting. My full thoughts are below, but I was very pleasantly surprised! I was also lucky enough to get an interview with Sarah Henning, which you can find before my review.
Thank you to Sarah Henning and Poppy for sending me a copy for this review.
Sarah Henning is a recovering journalist who has worked for the Palm Beach Post, Kansas City Star and Associated Press, among others. When not writing, she runs ultramarathons, hits the playground with her two kids, and hangs out with her husband Justin, who doubles as her long-suffering IT department. Sarah lives in Lawrence, Kansas, hometown of Langston Hughes, William S. Burroughs, and a really good basketball team.
Sarah is the author of SEA WITCH, which was a 2018 Indies Introduce and Indie’s Next selection. Its follow up, SEA WITCH RISING, came out in 2019. THROW LIKE A GIRL, about a down-spiraling softball player who is recruited to play quarterback on her ex-boyfriend’s football team, was her first YA contemporary novel and came out in January 2020. THE PRINCESS WILL SAVE YOU, the first book in her fantasy trilogy—a feminist tale inspired by The Princess Bride—came out in July 2020. Its sequel, THE QUEEN WILL BETRAY YOU, came out on July 6, 2021.
Other upcoming projects include THE KING WILL KILL YOU, available August 2, 2022 and will be the conclusion to her Kingdoms of Sand & Sky Trilogy inspired by The Princess Bride. Also scheduled for summer 2022 is IT’S ALL IN HOW YOU FALL, available May 31, 2022, which takes place in the same fictional universe as THROW LIKE A GIRL. Slated for summer 2023 is OUT OF OUR LEAGUE, a YA anthology of contemporary short stories about girls in sports.
About The Book
Title: It’s All in How You Fall
Author: Sarah Henning
Publisher: Poppy | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: May 31st, 2022
Page Length: 320
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Range: YA
Synopsis: Gymnast Caroline Kepler has three state balance beam titles, a new trick even most elites can’t do, and chronic, undeniable back pain. While she might never be an Olympian, she has dreams of leveling up to elite, making Nationals, and competing in college. But when one epic face-plant changes all that and Caroline’s back pain goes from chronic to career-ending, her dreams are shattered and her life is flipped upside down.
Enter Alex Zavala, a three-sport athlete who’s both incredibly cute and incredibly off-limits. He offers to give Caroline a crash course in all the sports she’s missed, and she has an offer for him in return: For every sport Alex teaches her, she’ll play matchmaker for him. Deal done, Caroline “dates” new sports with Alex for the rest of the summer, which is loads more fun than wallowing in despair. Just as Caroline starts to see herself as more than her past athletic successes, she picks up something she didn’t bargain for: a big fat crush on Alex. Turns out life was way easier when it was just layout-fulls and beam burns….
A contemporary young adult romance about moving on, finding your place, and recovering after life falls apart.
Thanks again Sarah Henning for taking the time to answer my questions. I couldn’t help but respond from time to time in square brackets [ ].
In up to 9 words or emojis, without spoilers, what can readers expect from It’s All in How You Fall?
Head-over-heels wasn’t supposed to mean falling in love. (I totally cheated by hyphenating that into one big word! But it’s the book’s tagline, so it’s perfect, LOL.) [I’ll allow it 😉 lol]
Can you give us 9 random facts about It’s All in How You Fall?
- I wanted to write a companion book to Throw Like a Girl that features a character trying something new who isn’t automatically amazing at it in the same way Liv was going from a softball player to a football player.
- I love the idea of 50 First Dates but with sports.
- I was a sports journalist and love writing sports romances with actual sports on the page because so often the action is glossed over even though it’s such a big part of at least one of the character’s lives.
- As a reader, I love a good “older brother’s best friend a love interest” trope, and it was super fun to write my own. I can’t think of any older brothers I had crushes on in high school, which is just too bad.
- In Alex’s arc, I wanted to explore what it’s like to be extremely good at something but not be sure that’s for you. Alex loves tennis and is very good at it but enjoys team sports that he plays with his friends at high school—soccer, basketball, and the school tennis team, which has a different vibe than his lone-wolf life as a rising star in junior tennis.
- I wanted to also explore the intricacies when our dreams happen to our friends but not to us. Caroline is in a situation where her friend Sunny has literally everything she wants—an elite status, a spot on the national team, a full-ride to UCLA, and no injuries. Despite everything that Sunny has, Caroline still loves her like a sister, and jumps to set her up with the best guy she knows, who also happened to (once) have a crush on her—Alex—even though it costs her heart more than she knew at the time.
- As for Caroline’s other BFF, Peregrine…I live in a college town, and it’s stuffed full of kids with really creative names. My son had a little boy on his soccer team when he was three or four named Peregrine (which is a type of falcon) and I knew I wanted to name a character that someday. Instead of a boy it ended up being a goth gymnast.
- Sunny’s family has a lake house at a place called Lake Dabinawa. That’s a real place here in Kansas and my cousin has a small cottage with a dock there, so her place is loosely based on a real place I visit.
- I love summer romances and it was so fun to get a chance to capture that early, heady part of summer when school’s out, it’s getting warmer every day, the farmer’s market is open, chlorine is in the air from the community pool, and the drum of a basketball on the court is ever-present.
Can you tell us what inspired you to write It’s All in How You Fall and without spoilers, what scene did you have the most fun writing and why?
I was a gymnast for ten years. Like Caroline, I was a competitive gymnast. I wasn’t nearly as good as Caroline, but I lived the life of 25-hour weeks in the gym coming to an end with a chronic back injury.
Gymnastics is an all-consuming sport that doesn’t leave much room for the cultivation for pretty much anything else. If you do it seriously, even if you’re not elite, you tend not to have time to play other sports, take music lessons, or do much of anything organized outside of school. When I quit, much like Caroline, I was suddenly at a loss. My identity had been tied to being a gymnast more than I knew, and for quite some time I felt out of sorts.
A lot of athletes have similar experiences no matter the sport in high school—suddenly they don’t make varsity, or they get injured, or they play throughout high school only to have it suddenly over when college starts. That exchange of identity when it’s tied to an action you no longer do is something about IAIHYF that I think will feel universal to some readers. No matter where you are in your life or what you like to do, we all have complicated relationships with the “end of an era.”
As for my favorite scene, let’s just say I got in a romantic moment tied to literal fireworks on the Fourth of July that was a ton of fun to write.
If you could spend the day with Caroline and Alex what would you do with each of them?
Honestly, I’m going to the US Open this summer for the first time and I’d love for them to come with me and hang out. We could eat good food and watch all the players Alex could be playing in a couple of years! [that’s so cool! They’d totally love that!]
Do you have any background in gymnastics that helped influence It’s All in How You Fall?
As I mentioned, I was a gymnast for a long time. I’d always wanted to write a gymnastics book even though this is more of a “quitting gymnastics book” it fits the bill!
You have written in both fantasy and contemporary genres. Do you have any advice for authors who want to try to write in a different genre? Do you feel some genres are easier to traverse into if you’re wanting to venture out as a writer?
I just want to tell stories and I’ve been lucky enough not to be bound to a certain genre. I simply love writing the stories that come for my throat and won’t let go. The ones I’m passionate about and just compelled to tell. Finding those stories is what’s fun for me, no matter the genre.
That said, I wouldn’t say it’s easy to go between them, at least from a publishing standpoint because it definitely makes things more difficult for the marketing side of things with readerships that don’t necessarily cross over. But a good story is a good story. I think that’s important for writers to remember if they move between genres or categories: all the same ingredients that make a story special—characterization, pacing, plot, great dialogue—all carry over whether there’s magic in the world building or not. Focus on writing a good story and not the box it fits in until later.
Also, read widely. This is key because it really will inform your own writing even if it’s in a subconscious way.
I’m a sucker for a gymnastics novel! It use to be the few books I would read as a tween/teen – gymnastic books and Babysitters Club lol. So I had high, fun hopes for this one. Let me just say Sarah did not disappoint. I had a blast reading this in one day and was exactly what I needed at the time. I think it was also a nice experience reading the novel when it took place – starting in July, but what were my full thoughts?
Caroline was a determined character that loved gymnastics, but was forced to stop due to a spinal injury. This injury, although career breaking, didn’t injure Caroline enough to force her to stop all types of sports, just the more contact/twisty ones. So we follow Caroline as she tries to figure out what sport she can fall in love with. This, of course, is done with the help of older brother’s best friend, Alex. Alex was the perfect cinnamon bun jock and had always felt like a perfect match for Caroline. At first we see the denial that Caroline has to go through – I felt that was mostly due to Alex being her older brother’s friend than anything else. I loved the connection we gained between these two throughout the book. I felt a huge connection to Caroline and Alex. Caroline because she has this mentality where everything feels like it needs to be transaction – you help me with something then I need to do something for you in return. I connected with Alex because of the number of sports he was in and keeping himself busy – me to a tea in high school and college.
The side characters were also great! At first we spend a lot of time learning about Caroline’s two best friends and I loved that. I would read more books with that trio any day! Nate, on the other hand, I had very little opinion on. There were a couple of times I just thought “of course you did, your the brother lol” when he did something that felt very reminiscent of something I could see my own (younger) brother doing. This is one contemporary where I wouldn’t be mad if Sarah came back and wrote companion novels for – I want one for Nate and his love interest, and one for each of Caroline’s best friends.
I loved that we got to explore a couple of sports along side Caroline, but I would have loved to have seen her try more – especially some of the winter sports that they had listed (I could see some fun times with Wrestling!). I also found the overall romance plot to be fairly predictable, but that’s what I loved about this book too – nothing to twisty or outlandish is exactly what I love in my romances.
All that being said, I really loved this book. I had a great time and it added such lightness to my reading that I haven’t had in a while. I think you would love this if you’re read Sarah’s other work, but also if you love Kasie West or Katie Cotugno as it had a similar feel to it. Similarly if you like tropes like secret dating, forbidden love, sports romance, or brother’s best friend as the love interest.
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