Gravity by Juliann Rich
Publication Date: November 15, 2016.
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books.
Genres: Young Adult, LGBT, Contemporary, and Sports.
Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository
Synopsis: A shot at Olympic gold in ski jumping. It’s a dream that has been the exclusive property of male athletes. Until now.
For seventeen-year-old Ellie Engebretsen, the 2011 decision to include women’s ski jumping in the Olympics is a game changer. She’d love to bring home the gold for her father, a former Olympic competitor whose dreams were blown along with his knees on an ill-timed landing. But can she defy the pull of gravity that draws her to Kate Moreau, her biggest competition and the girl of her dreams?
How can Ellie soar through the air when all she feels like doing is falling hard?
Thank you, Bold Strokes Books, for my review copy of Gravity. I received this review copy in exchange for an honest review; this does not affect my opinion. Any quotes mentioned below are taken from the review copy and are subject to change upon publication.
I have very conflicted feelings about Gravity. My expectations were mixed, some of my friends loved this book and others did not. However, in the end, I feel like this book was a bit subpar. It was nothing special except for the fact that it’s about sports, in particular, ski jumping, which was the best part of this book. I’ll talk more about that after I’ll deal with my biggest issue of the book. To understand my issues with the book I’ll have to divulge on events that transpired in first third (or so) of the book. This book is about Ellie, whose father is a former ski jumper and who now trains Ellie to get ready for the Olympics. Ellie is gay and likes girls and up until the beginning of the book, Ellie was together with and in love with a girl named Blair. However, a couple of days before the book starts Ellie gets the following text, a text Blair was meant to send to Geoffrey (a guy also in the ski jumping circle of people).
“I promise I’ll break up with Ellie tonight, Geoffrey. I hate sneaking around as much as you do.”
What has happened is that Blair has been cheating on Ellie with Geoffrey. Naturally, Ellie is heartbroken and mad which I totally understand. Getting cheated on is the worst and it’s not wrong to feel bad about it. What I dislike about Ellie’s reaction though is 1) her biphobia and 2) the fact that she called Blair a bitch (not to her face, but still). The first part is a real problem for me because while Blair being unfaithful and sleeping with someone other than Ellie is wrong (because they were in a committed relationship) that does not give Ellie the right the “claim” that Blair is a straight girl. The sexuality of Blair is never actually mentioned but we learn throughout the book that the feelings Blair had for Ellie were still real. The parts I found to be biphobic were,
“She still can’t and it would be almost funny, the way her eyes rove around the room until her gaze settles on Jack’s ass, if it didn’t hurt so damn much that even her eyes are off limits to me. To people not in the know, it probably looks like Blair hasn’t given up girls for good. Not by a long shot. But Blair knows and I know, the deep red that spreads across her face has nothing to do with Jack’s glutes and everything to do with her guilt.”
“What’s there to understand? Your text was pretty clear. You got sick of me. Or it was all a lie and you never loved me. Or you wanted something Geoffrey had that I didn’t.” I spit that last one in her face, because it was always good between us, that part. Better than good.
“It was the type of torment I was willing to endure back then, but only for Blair Caldwell. One year of walking around with a hard-on will do that to an otherwise sane woman. It’ll make her drive through impassable conditions. It’ll make her pretend she loves being dragged into store after store. It’ll make her strip on command in order to try on obscenely overpriced jeans in cramped dressing rooms in front of the girl of her dreams—the supremely uninterested and presumably straight girl of her dreams.”
I’ll be honest, maybe I read too much into it, but to me, it felt really wrong of Ellie to talk about Blair in that way. Blair cheating and presumably being bisexual (she is coded as a bisexual), but being called a straight girl because she is with someone of the opposite sex at the moment, can be seen to feed into a lot of negative stereotypes.
Moreover, I don’t have a problem with swearing, but I’ll admit that a woman calling another woman bitch really rubs me the wrong way which is why I, for example, had a problem with the following sentence.
“My Blair, my girl, the bitch who leapt into his arms like it was the easiest thing in the world.”
There was also a moment when the word slutty was used and I’m not really a fan of women (or anyone else for that matter) slut-shaming other women.
“Most days, I’m scoping out tourists, but all I see are silly girls or pouty girls or slutty girls. No one who could interest me enough to take my mind off Blair for one second.”
Despite my issues with Gravity I still really found the last half of so enjoyable. The main pairing, with their relationship in a large part built on lies which later on got exposed, towards the end really found each other and the truth together with shared dreams. That was very sweet. I really wish though that Ellie hadn’t lied so much to Kate and dealt with a lot of situations differently but that might just be me. The most interesting part about Gravity is that fact that it’s women in ski jumping. There is a lot of interesting trivia both in the book and afterward which teaches you about the fact that ski jumping is really misogynistic (which is called out in the book by the characters) and I loved that topic. I also loved the part about female ski jumpers being allies despite them also being competitors because of the misogynistic nature of the sport. In the Author’s Note: The Real Heroes in the end of the book it says the following,
“Though the Olympic barrier has been breached, the struggle to find equal footing continues. Currently women ski jumpers are allowed to compete in one event while their male counterparts compete in three.”
I really hope and wish we get to see more books about women in ski jumping because the sports sounds so amazing and I love seeing women taking their rightful place where men have tried to keep them away for so long. Big thumbs up for that. All in all, my feelings are mixed and I cannot give this book more than 2.5 stars. If you love f/f romances and sports, I say you can give this book a go but definitely be aware of the issues that exist in the book.