8 Great Novels About Gymnastics
Every four years, I get obsessed with gymnastics. In between rounds of Olympic competition, I fall down the YouTube rabbit hole for yet another watch of Olga Korbut and Nadia Comăneci’s groundbreaking performances in 1974 and 1978 respectively. I watch documentaries. I look up phrases like double twisting double back. And I have it on good authority (or at least from Twitter) that I’m not alone.
Book Riot’s Kelly Jensen wrote a few years ago about the fact that she wanted more novels about gymnastics.
Gymnastics novels are few and far between. It’s weird to think that, since gymnastics are so full of power, of drama, and of opportunities to exploit storylines. The girls (and boys!) who participate are fascinating and they deal with incredible pressures inside and outside the gym to pursue their passion. In a lot of ways, gymnastics offers a lot of the same potential stories as ballet novels do: girls (and boys, but especially girls) doing things with their bodies that are powerful, that command attention, and that demand strength, agility, and commitment.
Thankfully, since 2016 when she wrote that piece, we’ve had quite a few novels set in that world. However, in at least one way, they are still lacking: we definitely need more novels about gymnastics by authors of colour. The sport has been increasingly diverse in the U.S. in the last decade or so. All three gymnasts on the podium in this past summer’s National Championships were Black women, and in 2021, Sunisa Lee was the first Asian American to win Olympic gold in the all-around competition. We increasingly have memoirs by authors of colour: Grace, Gold and Glory by Gabrielle (“Gabby”) Douglas, Courage to Soar by Simone Biles, and I Got This by Laurie Hernandez.
I hope that in the future we’ll see more novels that reflect this new and improving reality of diversity in gymnastics. But in the meantime, let’s tumble into the pages of these novels.
Like many of the protagonists of gymnastics-themed books, Audrey Lee is Olympics-bound. Or at least, that’s the plan — but that could all change when awful news comes out that rocks the team and…