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Brace for Impact: A Memoir

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A powerful and redemptive story of how the dazzling world of roller derby helped one young woman transform her fear and self-doubt into gutsy, big-hearted, adventurous living "A universal story of healing and triumph, made all the more beautiful, wild, and free by Gabe's fierce love for roller derby and her team, who become her family."--ABBY WAMBACH, Olympian, activist, a A powerful and redemptive story of how the dazzling world of roller derby helped one young woman transform her fear and self-doubt into gutsy, big-hearted, adventurous living "A universal story of healing and triumph, made all the more beautiful, wild, and free by Gabe's fierce love for roller derby and her team, who become her family."--ABBY WAMBACH, Olympian, activist, and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wolfpack Growing up queer in a conservative Midwestern town, Gabe Montesanti never felt comfortable in her own skin. A competitive swimmer, she turned to perfectionism and self-control to create a sense of safety, only to develop an eating disorder and constantly second-guess her instincts. When she enters graduate school in St. Louis, she is determined to put the baggage of her childhood behind her. With no prior experience, she joins Arch Rival, one of the top-ranked roller derby leagues in the world. Gabe instantly falls in love with the sport's roughness, intensity, and open embrace of people who are literally and figuratively scarred. She soon finds community and a sense of belonging, reveling in the tattoos, glitter, and campiness. But when Gabe suffers a catastrophic injury, she can no longer ignore the parallels between the physicality of roller derby and the unresolved trauma of her upbringing. Rendered inactive, forced to be still, Gabe realizes she needs to heal her emotional wounds as much as her physical ones; she must confront her fear and self-diminishment in order to feel truly alive. Told with unflinching honesty and a giant dose of wonder, Brace for Impact is a tender, inspiring memoir about the everyday heroism of pursuing a life less ordinary, and the deeply human need to be at peace with who you are.


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A powerful and redemptive story of how the dazzling world of roller derby helped one young woman transform her fear and self-doubt into gutsy, big-hearted, adventurous living "A universal story of healing and triumph, made all the more beautiful, wild, and free by Gabe's fierce love for roller derby and her team, who become her family."--ABBY WAMBACH, Olympian, activist, a A powerful and redemptive story of how the dazzling world of roller derby helped one young woman transform her fear and self-doubt into gutsy, big-hearted, adventurous living "A universal story of healing and triumph, made all the more beautiful, wild, and free by Gabe's fierce love for roller derby and her team, who become her family."--ABBY WAMBACH, Olympian, activist, and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wolfpack Growing up queer in a conservative Midwestern town, Gabe Montesanti never felt comfortable in her own skin. A competitive swimmer, she turned to perfectionism and self-control to create a sense of safety, only to develop an eating disorder and constantly second-guess her instincts. When she enters graduate school in St. Louis, she is determined to put the baggage of her childhood behind her. With no prior experience, she joins Arch Rival, one of the top-ranked roller derby leagues in the world. Gabe instantly falls in love with the sport's roughness, intensity, and open embrace of people who are literally and figuratively scarred. She soon finds community and a sense of belonging, reveling in the tattoos, glitter, and campiness. But when Gabe suffers a catastrophic injury, she can no longer ignore the parallels between the physicality of roller derby and the unresolved trauma of her upbringing. Rendered inactive, forced to be still, Gabe realizes she needs to heal her emotional wounds as much as her physical ones; she must confront her fear and self-diminishment in order to feel truly alive. Told with unflinching honesty and a giant dose of wonder, Brace for Impact is a tender, inspiring memoir about the everyday heroism of pursuing a life less ordinary, and the deeply human need to be at peace with who you are.

30 review for Brace for Impact: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lex Kent

    This was good and definitely more intense than I expected. If you have followed my reviews for a while, you will know I like to read at least a few nonfiction books each year. So far I’ve picked out two memoirs and it just so happens that both are being released around the same time so I might review the second book this week too. I have been on a mini run of so-so books recently so this read came at the right time for me. This was well written and more gripping and intense at times than I expec This was good and definitely more intense than I expected. If you have followed my reviews for a while, you will know I like to read at least a few nonfiction books each year. So far I’ve picked out two memoirs and it just so happens that both are being released around the same time so I might review the second book this week too. I have been on a mini run of so-so books recently so this read came at the right time for me. This was well written and more gripping and intense at times than I expected. Some of the things that happened were such a big “wow” that I kept forgetting that this story wasn’t fiction. A few times I found myself wishing that the author might change the story a little or go in another direction, but of course she couldn’t because THIS WAS REAL! When people hear a life story and say, “you should write a book about it”, well I have to imagine a hundred people told Montesanti that because her life was absolutely book material. I’m a big Derby fan, and have always been amazed by the badass women who play it. I thought when it came to the derby scenes that they were really well done. They were interesting and exciting at times, and I felt like I was really on a journey with Montesanti. In fact, I could have used even more derby scenes. I felt like we kind of just scratched the surface talking about this amazing league and I wanted to know more. This was already a longer book so I get time was a factor, but I still wanted more. Beside the derby, this really is a story about a young woman desperately trying to find a family unit to fill her life with love and support, after everything her blood family put her through. Montesanti’s mother was very abusive, mostly mentally but physically at times too. Her father was an enabler of the mother so nothing was ever done to really combat that harm. It was the kind of constant mental abuse that would wear anyone down, and it was tough to read about it. There were so many times Montesanti did something just hoping for any validation, support, or love, and it was heartbreaking when it wouldn’t happen. But while there is the sadness of everything she went through, it was also wonderful and uplifting seeing her find derby, a queer community to be accepted in, and just to have friends and a partner that really loved her. I would recommend this to readers interested in roller derby and stories of women overcoming darkness to find a place of belonging. This was a debut that was very well written and I would absolutely read Montesanti again. If Montesanti wants to write a book about all her derby adventures, well I’d be happy just to read about that. A copy was given to me for review.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    When I saw the gorgeous cover art on this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I’ve been doing some roller skating lately with my kids after a 20-year hiatus, so I was compelled to pick it up. I knew very little about roller derby before reading it, and I wanted to know more. What I got was an education about the world of roller derby and so much more. Montesanti expertly weaves her derby experience with her personal exploration of who she is as a friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, and most impor When I saw the gorgeous cover art on this book, I knew I wanted to read it. I’ve been doing some roller skating lately with my kids after a 20-year hiatus, so I was compelled to pick it up. I knew very little about roller derby before reading it, and I wanted to know more. What I got was an education about the world of roller derby and so much more. Montesanti expertly weaves her derby experience with her personal exploration of who she is as a friend, girlfriend, daughter, sister, and most importantly, who she is as an individual. The author had faced immense pressure in her early life both from competitive swimming and from strong familial influence to act in a certain way. Over the course of the book, Montesanti is able to be who she wants without second-guessing herself. Essentially, it is a book about being true to yourself with a wonderful cast of characters and the exciting action of roller derby. I recommend it for those who are interested in memoirs, sports, or mental health awareness.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Renata

    I scooped this up on NetGalley because I'm intrigued by roller derby--much like the author, dating back to watching the movie Whip It. Montesanti is a professor of writing as well as a roller derby player so this is a beautifully-written, compelling memoir that not only gives a lot of really interesting derby stories but also unpacks a messy, traumatic childhood. I scooped this up on NetGalley because I'm intrigued by roller derby--much like the author, dating back to watching the movie Whip It. Montesanti is a professor of writing as well as a roller derby player so this is a beautifully-written, compelling memoir that not only gives a lot of really interesting derby stories but also unpacks a messy, traumatic childhood.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susie Dumond

    Gabe Montesanti came to roller derby at a crossroads in her life: starting graduate school, moving to a new city with her partner, recovering from an eating disorder, and still seeking her emotionally abusive mother's approval. Roller derby led her to a wonderfully weird queer community, but it also helped her find a new way to relate to her body and the courage to embrace her true self. At turns adventurous, dangerous, and devastating, this memoir showcases the transformative power of roller der Gabe Montesanti came to roller derby at a crossroads in her life: starting graduate school, moving to a new city with her partner, recovering from an eating disorder, and still seeking her emotionally abusive mother's approval. Roller derby led her to a wonderfully weird queer community, but it also helped her find a new way to relate to her body and the courage to embrace her true self. At turns adventurous, dangerous, and devastating, this memoir showcases the transformative power of roller derby and, more broadly, finding healing through community. Montesanti shares her story with raw honesty and clear passion. It made me want to buy tickets to a roller derby match immediately!

  5. 5 out of 5

    TheseBooksAren'tMine

    In Brace for Impact, Gabe Montesanti shares with us the slow, sometimes excruciating process of extricating herself from the toxic influence of her mother and finding joy in the fellowship of shared queer spaces. It celebrates found family, the strength and resilience of one's body, and the uneven, uneasy navigation from childhood to adulthood. Through this journey, Montesanti discovers what her body and mind are truly capable of, learns how to develop and nurture healthy, fortifying relationshi In Brace for Impact, Gabe Montesanti shares with us the slow, sometimes excruciating process of extricating herself from the toxic influence of her mother and finding joy in the fellowship of shared queer spaces. It celebrates found family, the strength and resilience of one's body, and the uneven, uneasy navigation from childhood to adulthood. Through this journey, Montesanti discovers what her body and mind are truly capable of, learns how to develop and nurture healthy, fortifying relationships, and, most importantly, learns to accept and see herself as a part of the great, big beautiful queer community—all thanks to the empowerment and not-so-occasional roughness and violence of roller derby. Montesanti provides the backstory of the relationship with her mother and the dynamic of her family life, weaving anecdotes as a competitive swimmer around her real-time experience of finding roller derby as an adult. At first she is tentative, allowing her past, her mother's powerful "you can't/shouldn't/won't be able to do this" voice to forever be a presence in her head. As she grapples with her partner Kelly not being able to find a job when they make the move to St. Louis, the pressures of her graduate writing program, and both craving and fearing acceptance into a queer space, Montesanti finds herself drawn to the world of roller derby—of unconventional women, of incredibly clever alter ego derby names (that, quite frankly, may be my favorite part of roller derby—well, that and all the hot pants), of a world where the old rules of what her body can and can't do don't apply and where being out and proud is the rule instead of the exception. It was beautiful to see her begin to see herself as a part of this space, as not just capable, but also deserving of having the kind of community that accepts and embraces her—all of her. As for the writing style itself, I did feel that the book would be better off being a bit shorter, and at many points she was simply telling, not showing. (Part of this is having to describe the actions of a sport, and there is a lot going on in a roller derby bout, as I came to find out.) I know that this is the trick of a good memoir—to be able to tell and show simultaneously about events that are in some cases far removed from memory, repressed even. To recreate these in a genuine way that continues the momentum of the story is immensely challenging, and the writing needs to be incredibly nuanced to tread this line successfully. She picks up a lot of momentum towards the end of the book, and I was unsurprised when I learned that the book stemmed out of a series of essays that had been previously published. I think she is probably an excellent essayist who is still finding her voice as a memoirist. Overall, I enjoyed Montesanti's story. I think any story that celebrates queer spaces, that allows for people to feel more accepting of themselves. that chronicles the process of them healing and realizing how they deserve a space in the greater LGBTQ+ community, is a story worth reading, a story worth telling. I was, quite frankly, shocked at some of her mother's behavior, and hearing the way her mother spoke to her, the negative and intrusive thoughts she was responsible for implanting in Montesanti's head, made me both furious and sad. This book is for anyone struggling to squirm out from under the thumbprint of a toxic relationship, anyone who is learning to find power in their own body, and anyone who likes to read about the toughness, resilience, and power of a group of women who find pleasure in hurtling themselves into each other.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Michelle

    I know that there will be [and are] people who love this book; unfortunately, I am not one of those people. For me, this was a huge slog and every day I struggled to get through my set reading of it. The premise of this book is misleading - I was ready to be immersed in the world of Roller Derby and all that it entails and then some event that causes the author to reflect on her life. Instead, I was immersed in the world of the author and her life and struggles [which are many and real and I fel I know that there will be [and are] people who love this book; unfortunately, I am not one of those people. For me, this was a huge slog and every day I struggled to get through my set reading of it. The premise of this book is misleading - I was ready to be immersed in the world of Roller Derby and all that it entails and then some event that causes the author to reflect on her life. Instead, I was immersed in the world of the author and her life and struggles [which are many and real and I felt for her for most of the book] and there were side-blips of Roller Derby. I was so hoping to learn more about Derby [NOT that I would ever be able to participate being the Queen Klutz, but I do love the IDEA of it.] and I feel really disappointed about that [though just reading about the hard work that goes into actually becoming a Roller Derby Person was exhausting; I cannot even imagine doing it in real life]; I just wanted so much more [I will say that what I did learn was amazing. I loved the culture and the openness and the acceptance. As someone who has been a weirdo and on the peripheral her whole life, this was very appealing to me and the way that group surrounded the author after her accident was amazing and lovely to see. THAT part of the story I just loved and save the book from being a total loss for me]. I will say that reading this book made me grateful for many things in my life; my parents always supported me 100% in everything I have ever done, even when they didn't understand *OR* like what I was doing. They also let me make mistakes and then helped pick me up from said [spectacular]mistakes with very little recriminations [never in my life did they say "I told you so" to me and I am the most grateful for that, because it did seem for a few years there I made a BILLION mistakes]. I am also grateful for Doctors and Nurses who were [and are] compassionate and fought/fight for me and my well-being; that the good outweighs the bad [and there was PLENTY of bad]. I felt that a lot during the recovery part of this book. Even as I struggled with her relationship with her parents and her own healing, my heart also broke for her. It was such a weird feeling and really contributed to me not loving this book in spite of me wanting to love it. I am disappointed. I was invited to read and review this book by Random House Publishing Group - Random House/The Dial Press and I want to thank them, NetGalley and the author, Gabe Montesanti, for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Richard Propes

    From the opening pages of Gabe Montesanti's "Brace for Impact: A Memoir," it's apparent that the roller derby curious, self-identifying queer doesn't quite feel comfortable in her skin. Of course, this could very well have a myriad of explanations. It could be growing up in a conservative home in the conservative Midwest where she seemed to identify fairly early on that she was different from others including those within her own home. It could be her exhaustingly tense relationship with a mother From the opening pages of Gabe Montesanti's "Brace for Impact: A Memoir," it's apparent that the roller derby curious, self-identifying queer doesn't quite feel comfortable in her skin. Of course, this could very well have a myriad of explanations. It could be growing up in a conservative home in the conservative Midwest where she seemed to identify fairly early on that she was different from others including those within her own home. It could be her exhaustingly tense relationship with a mother who carried a facade of loving warmth but whose obvious emotional abuse manifested in very tangible ways. It could be her lingering issues with an eating disorder and warped body image resulting from all of the above and Montesanti's history of competitive swimming that developed into cyclical unhealthy patterns. It could and probably is all of these things, though in the opening pages of "Brace for Impact" all these things are palpable as we're introduced to a young woman we grow to care as she tiptoes in these opening pages toward an exploration of the world of St. Louis's roller derby scene and begins to come face-to-face with a past that runs smack dab with the present life Montesanti is building for herself as she enters graduate school in St. Louis alongside her partner, Kelly. "Brace for Impact: A Memoir" is, at its abundant heart, a book about how Montesanti transformed her life when she boldly and bravely entered Catalan Street's St. Louis Skatium, a bit of a ramshackle skate rink where Montesanti will not only be introduced the women who will become her friends and family of choice but she will ultimately be introduced to herself. There are those who may very well argue that not enough unfolds in "Brace for Impact" to justify its lengthy journey. The book does, in fact, largely unfold as Montesanti builds a reputation for discipline and commitment as a roller derby rookie before Montesanti is forced to slow down when a catastrophic injury threatens to have lifelong impact and she's truly forced to realize that this life she's building is unquestionably being influenced by her past. However, what makes "Brace for Impact" refreshingly different is the complete and utter sincerity with which Montesanti. This isn't maudlin literary manipulation. This is emotional transparency that feels vibrantly alive and infuses "Brace for Impact" with a sense of honesty and even urgency that immerses us in her life, in Kelly's life, and in the lives of those around her including her beloved "derby mom." I mean, seriously, I absolutely adored this derby mom. As Montesanti shares detail after detail, you feel her world coming to life within her mind as she writes and remembers, heals and restores. While it's somewhat cliche' to say that a book begs to be a film, "Brace for Impact" is a biopic waiting to happen. It's rare in a memoir that a world comes to life as vividly as it does here. So many biopics are content to bring the central character to life. After all, it is a memoir. However, if there's one thing we learn from "Brace for Impact" and it is obvious that Montesanti has learned in life it's that we're better off not alone and it's clear she absolutely loves this world she built for herself and that empowered her in a myriad of ways. "Brace for Impact" is bold. It's raw. It's vulnerable. It's aching. It's also got a myriad of tenderness to it as Montesanti learns to embrace herself and to surrender to those who embrace her. "Brace for Impact" covers the familial conflicts and tensions with unflinching honesty, a quietly understated longing for normalcy never quite met yet there's never quite the adversarial tone that so many books adopt. Instead, and perhaps even more painfully, there's honesty about unhealthy family dynamics and the slow peeling away of relationship masks to reveal uncomfortable truths. There's also, of course, Montesanti's relationship with Kelly, the kind of partner we all long to have with equal parts nurturer, advocate, protector, and guardian angel. While we're obviously still early in 2022, there's little doubt that "Brace for Impact" will be one of my favorite reading experiences for the year. While I may not seem like the target audience for the book, as a disabled activist who grew up in an ultra-conservative home and who's experienced my own myriad of early life traumas this was a book that resonated with me deeply within my soul and which also made me absolutely adore these people and the world that Montesanti at first stumbles into before embracing it and protecting it. "Brace for Impact" not only describes Montesanti's inspiring journey here - it describes the experience of reading this emotionally honest and exhilarating memoir from first-time author Gabe Montesanti.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Josie Zanti

    A memoir about generational trauma, roller derby, and relationships. Brace for Impact made me feel so many emotions all at once. Gabe puts to words all the feelings so many of us have had about roller derby while also showing how the sport has been unique to her. I cannot wait to read this book in the future when I have retired from derby so all the feelings can flood back to me.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Leila Coppala

    A moving, heart breaking, heart warming memoir about a young woman navigating through the mental and emotional damage done by a screwed up home life, coming out as queer, finding her voice as an author and finding love and acceptance through roller derby. I chose this book because I have been fascinated by roller derby since my early childhood in the 1970s. If I wasn't in a working band, I would've tried roller derby, but the band takes up a lot of my free time. I have many friends in the roller A moving, heart breaking, heart warming memoir about a young woman navigating through the mental and emotional damage done by a screwed up home life, coming out as queer, finding her voice as an author and finding love and acceptance through roller derby. I chose this book because I have been fascinated by roller derby since my early childhood in the 1970s. If I wasn't in a working band, I would've tried roller derby, but the band takes up a lot of my free time. I have many friends in the roller derby world and everything Gabe wrote about the acceptance, love and inclusion rings 100% true. I also appreciated the detail she including about the moves, practice exercises and what happens in a bout. The portions dealing with her mother and the body issues Gabe has endured stemming from her mother's emotional abuse were particularly difficult to read. They put the unconditional love and acceptance Gabe found with her girlfriend (now wife) Kelly and her friends and teammates in roller derby in stark contrast. This book made me cry both sad and happy tears. The only complaint I have is that there is occasionally a lack of flow in the storyline, I believe stemming from the fact that most of the book was originally written as essays and later became a full fledged book. However, this is a minor issue and in no way detracts from the impact of Gabe's writing. Thank you to NetGalley, the Dail Press and the author for an eARC in exchange for my unbiased, honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This is a brutal book - physically and emotionally - and it’s done very well. The author, Gabe Montesanti, has written a memoir about an important time in her life. A member of the LGBTQ community, at the time the book takes place, Gabe and her partner, Kelly, have recently moved to St. Louis, where Gabe is starting a master’s program in writing at Washington University (my alma mater). Growing up, Gabe felt she never fit in anywhere. - not in school, not in her family - and the only way that sh This is a brutal book - physically and emotionally - and it’s done very well. The author, Gabe Montesanti, has written a memoir about an important time in her life. A member of the LGBTQ community, at the time the book takes place, Gabe and her partner, Kelly, have recently moved to St. Louis, where Gabe is starting a master’s program in writing at Washington University (my alma mater). Growing up, Gabe felt she never fit in anywhere. - not in school, not in her family - and the only way that she found to prove herself to herself was through competitive swimming, in which she participated throughout college. Now, in a new city where neither she nor Kelly know anyone, where Kelly has no job, and they barely subsist on Gabe’s scholarship stipend, she’s desperate to find something to belong to. And then she discovers roller derby, a sport quite possibly more brutal than football and ice hockey combined. Gabe is a driven person, and her drive to succeed in roller derby gives her life some meaning. She and Kelly (who doesn’t skate but comes to events) find an unusual family and not only camaraderie but love and support. This becomes especially important when Gabe has a serious accident on the rink. Throughout the book, Gabe reflects upon her need to be accepted and the extent of her anguish about being unloved and not good enough, born in childhood and persisting in her young adulthood is terribly painful. I found myself making notes like “please get therapy” although in the end she seems to figure out who she is and just how worthy she is as well. This book is an exceptional insight into a sport that I didn’t know much about as well as an excellent insight into the LGBTQ community. Highly recommended. I received this book as an ARC from the publisher and NetGalley.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    Brace for Impact focuses one of the most exciting and scary times in a budding academic's life. After finishing her undergrad degree, she moved to a new city with her partner to complete a graduate program. This journey is difficult for just about anyone in a similar situation, but Montesanti shares details of her life that are absolutely heartbreaking. These details are hers to share, but I will give a trigger warning that this will be a difficult read for anyone sensitive to conversations arou Brace for Impact focuses one of the most exciting and scary times in a budding academic's life. After finishing her undergrad degree, she moved to a new city with her partner to complete a graduate program. This journey is difficult for just about anyone in a similar situation, but Montesanti shares details of her life that are absolutely heartbreaking. These details are hers to share, but I will give a trigger warning that this will be a difficult read for anyone sensitive to conversations around eating disorders, body image, or a fraught family dynamic. In this chapter of her life, Montesanti is struggling to figure out how to navigate her relationship with her mother. The two are polar opposites in many ways, and despite her mother's rejection, Montesanti yearns to rebuild their relationship and find a new equilibrium between them. The main focus of the novel -- and where Montesanti's voice really shines -- is her budding romance with the brash, accepting, courageous sport of roller derby. She cautiously tiptoes into this world looking for a replacement for her childhood focus on swimming and a place to channel her energy and emotions during her rigorous graduate program in a brand new city. Almost immediately, Montesanti finds this and more: she finds community. The way Montesanti weaves her experiences as a new roller derby hopeful with her residual childhood trauma as a means of shaping her new life is absolutely wonderful. I found myself absolutely enthralled in her story. I found myself rooting for her. I found myself feeling like I knew her. Despite this rather heavy content, Brace for Impact remains a very fun read. Now, the question remains as to whether I'll lace up a pair of roller skates... Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this text.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    It's hard to read this book and not want to immediately go buy some skates and join a roller derby team. Or is that just me? Montesanti doesn't hold back about the rough parts--from the almost inevitable injuries to the perhaps unhealthy ways she throws herself headfirst into derby life. But the community she finds there--queer, ridiculous, tough, and above all supportive--makes it all seem worth it. Interwoven with her own trauma, unhealthy mother-daughter relationships, and eating disorders, t It's hard to read this book and not want to immediately go buy some skates and join a roller derby team. Or is that just me? Montesanti doesn't hold back about the rough parts--from the almost inevitable injuries to the perhaps unhealthy ways she throws herself headfirst into derby life. But the community she finds there--queer, ridiculous, tough, and above all supportive--makes it all seem worth it. Interwoven with her own trauma, unhealthy mother-daughter relationships, and eating disorders, this memoir examines the baggage we bring with us to sports and how healing can happen. If nothing else read this for all the derby names, they're truly fantastic. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this text.

  13. 4 out of 5

    abbie

    It's kind of strange to review someone's life story... but anyway, I really enjoyed reading about Gabe's life in Brace for Impact. In this book, we get insights into roller derby, injuries, queerness, and toxic family situations. Is it strange to say I enjoyed reading about this? Maybe. But it was wholly captivating, unapologetically queer, and taught me more about what roller derby is, which I loved. Gabe writes so beautifully, really drawing the reader in, & making it feel like we are experienci It's kind of strange to review someone's life story... but anyway, I really enjoyed reading about Gabe's life in Brace for Impact. In this book, we get insights into roller derby, injuries, queerness, and toxic family situations. Is it strange to say I enjoyed reading about this? Maybe. But it was wholly captivating, unapologetically queer, and taught me more about what roller derby is, which I loved. Gabe writes so beautifully, really drawing the reader in, & making it feel like we are experiencing everything too. Which makes for a very intense read. It's written non-linearly, with both present-day events and flashbacks to past events, but done in a way that makes complete sense and flows very well together. It was such a great experience reading about how Gabe grew as a person, became more herself, and found a community. I also appreciate the candidness about the bad parts - the struggles and falling back into the toxic family dynamic. It shows life as it is. I really think anyone in the queer community would enjoy this memoir like I did, keeping in mind the heaviness of some of the topics broached. CW: emotional abuse, toxic family, disordered eating, injury, doctor's offices, hospital/ER stay, self harm, anxiety, vomit, unwanted touch, pandemic, HP references Rating system: 5 - absolutely love, little-to-no dislikes that did not impact my reading experience 4 - great book, minor dislikes that did have an impact on my reading experience 3 - good/decent book but for some reason did not hook me or there were some problematic things that just were not addressed or greatly impacted my reading experience 2 - is either a book I did not click with and did not enjoy, problematic aspects are not addressed and severely impacted my reading experience, or I DNF'd but think it has potential for others 1 - is very problematic, I would not recommend the book to anyone Thank you to Netgalley & The Dial Press for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    grace

    I really enjoyed this book! I thought it was very well-written and especially insightful into the tricky dynamics of mother-daughter relationships. I originally was drawn to this book because I've always been interested in roller derby, but other than seeing a match as a kid and watching Whip It (which is mentioned by the author as her introduction to the sport as well) I really didn't know much. But I was blown away by the amazing community Montesanti so lovingly writes about in this book. It m I really enjoyed this book! I thought it was very well-written and especially insightful into the tricky dynamics of mother-daughter relationships. I originally was drawn to this book because I've always been interested in roller derby, but other than seeing a match as a kid and watching Whip It (which is mentioned by the author as her introduction to the sport as well) I really didn't know much. But I was blown away by the amazing community Montesanti so lovingly writes about in this book. It makes me want to join! Juxtaposing the discovery of this incredible sport and community is Montesanti's relationship with her mother and her challenges with body image. I thought these topics were explored on the page so well. We get to see so many heartbreaking moments between Gabe and her mother, but the growth and realization that comes from that. This journey was beautifully written. It's a story about derby and about being gay and about overcoming trauma. And it ends on such a hopeful note (the last two chapters are fantastic) with the realization that this story is also about learning how to love yourself and all the hard work that takes. I did feel there were some areas that dragged. Interesting thoughts about the overall themes in this book were explored multiple times, with some instances feeling like a fresh perspective on the topic and others just feeling a bit repetitive. I do think this book is a little long for the genre and subject, but that comes down to my personal preferences. Overall, I did like this book a lot. It made me want to learn even more about derby, which I think is such a cool sport. Thank you to The Dial Press for providing me with an ARC! Also, how gorgeous is this cover?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ry.Reads.Books

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. BRACE FOR IMPACT is a revelatory, gut-wrenching, and unflinchingly honest coming-of-age memoir that beautifully captures all that comes with striking out on one’s own as a queer adult for the first time. Oh, and it’s about roller derby too. One of the strange but beautiful things about being queer is that we tend to ‘come of age’ a bit later in life than our peers. It isn’t until we’re fully out from under the systems we were reared in that we begin to navigate the world as we truly are and how w BRACE FOR IMPACT is a revelatory, gut-wrenching, and unflinchingly honest coming-of-age memoir that beautifully captures all that comes with striking out on one’s own as a queer adult for the first time. Oh, and it’s about roller derby too. One of the strange but beautiful things about being queer is that we tend to ‘come of age’ a bit later in life than our peers. It isn’t until we’re fully out from under the systems we were reared in that we begin to navigate the world as we truly are and how we want to be seen. This memoir is a master class in the specific-as-universal, taking one woman’s decision point to take up roller derby and creating a memoir that is entirely relatable across a breadth of lived experiences. Where the beauty lies is in how Montesanti leverages tough moments in her derby journey to recall past traumas. As she’s conditioning to be the best roller derby version of herself, she is simultaneously acknowledging and attempting to unlearn a lifetime of pain, othering, and trauma. I’ll stay light on the brutal details, but at the core of this is her mother, a human with whom any psychologist would have a field day analyzing. Another strange but beautiful thing about being queer is building a chosen family. Because we grow up with such a different experience than our peers, and sometimes with family units that wholly do not understand us, early adulthood becomes a time to create the support system and loving family that we were starved for in childhood. Montesanti’s move to St. Louis and subsequent training for roller derby provide her that opportunity and this memoir yields beautiful and kind portrayals of those who become her chosen family. I myself want to be friends with this crew. Finally, the third (and perhaps most universal) beautiful thing about being queer (and maybe just human) is when you finally have the dawning realization that you are enough and that you don’t exist to punish yourself for not being what others may what wanted you to be. Gabe’s journey to the climax of this book was fraught, but boy howdy is the payoff worth it. If you read this, Gabe, I am rooting for you always. All this to say: read this book. Montesanti’s effortlessly hard-hitting writing style will have you barreling through the pages like a Lead Jammer through a pack of Blockers. And if you don’t get that reference now, you will soon! Thank you to Dial Press for the Advanced Reader Copy of this book. BRACE FOR IMPACT is available everywhere on May 24th, 2022. Trigger Warnings regarding eating disorders, body image, and challenging family dynamics.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I received an electronic ARC of Brace for Impact by Gabe Montesanti from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To begin, this memoir was one of my favorite books of the year! Overall, I found Gabe’s writing to consist of thoughts and experiences that I have dealt with in the past and as such, the way in which Gabe interconnects her feelings related to her family and her longing to not feel alone, hit a little too close to home. Which allowed for me to feel a very peculiar connection to her I received an electronic ARC of Brace for Impact by Gabe Montesanti from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To begin, this memoir was one of my favorite books of the year! Overall, I found Gabe’s writing to consist of thoughts and experiences that I have dealt with in the past and as such, the way in which Gabe interconnects her feelings related to her family and her longing to not feel alone, hit a little too close to home. Which allowed for me to feel a very peculiar connection to her memoir. Although the pacing for the first few chapters seemed a little slow, it picked up shortly thereafter and maintained a steady pace for the remainder of the book. When coupled with the way she organized the memoir, this helped to keep my attention hooked for the rest of the book. Additionally, I enjoyed reading about how roller derby allowed for Gabe to have the necessary space to learn to not only be comfortable in her skin but to thrive. Her descriptions of longing to belong and the bonds of family that exceed beyond blood, were insightful and inspiring for those of us still looking for our place in the world. Overall, this memoir is an ode to roller derby, self acceptance and found families, with a queer cast of amazing individuals whose personalities shined through the pages.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    This review is based on an advance reader copy I got from a Goodreads giveaway. Brace for Impact is about roller derby, but even more so it is about finding a community where you are accepted and most importantly, about learning to accept and embrace who you are. Overall, an inspiring story, but what colored my reading of this book, right from the start was the manner in which "Blades of Glory" was treated in the beginning. It seemed clear from the start that everyone, the author included (possi This review is based on an advance reader copy I got from a Goodreads giveaway. Brace for Impact is about roller derby, but even more so it is about finding a community where you are accepted and most importantly, about learning to accept and embrace who you are. Overall, an inspiring story, but what colored my reading of this book, right from the start was the manner in which "Blades of Glory" was treated in the beginning. It seemed clear from the start that everyone, the author included (possibly in the interest of fitting in) was very dismissive and not terribly welcoming of her. Was she stupid and annoying? Quite possibly, but when one of the messages in the book is how amazing, welcoming and accepting the roller derby community is, it just doesn't really ring true after reading about how Blades of Glory was treated. She asked a painfully ignorant question that was ignored. Why? She is trying to learn. It takes guts to speak up in a new group like that, especially when you desperately want to belong. When I read that, I had flashbacks to middle school when I was that awkward girl trying to fit in and failing miserably. That leaves scars too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chantal (into_trouble)

    5 stars!! Oh my gosh, my queer heart. ❤️ I NEED a copy of this book in my personal collection. In this memoir, Gabe is so unbelievably real, raw, and honest. Hearing her narrate her own audiobook made the experience that much more special. Gabe, please narrate more! As a derby skater/official, I was able to relate to this book so much. Hearing the big names in derby come up made me tingly all over. Gabe not only knows these amazing skaters, but actually calls them their friends. Eeeee! Gabe’s toxic, 5 stars!! Oh my gosh, my queer heart. ❤️ I NEED a copy of this book in my personal collection. In this memoir, Gabe is so unbelievably real, raw, and honest. Hearing her narrate her own audiobook made the experience that much more special. Gabe, please narrate more! As a derby skater/official, I was able to relate to this book so much. Hearing the big names in derby come up made me tingly all over. Gabe not only knows these amazing skaters, but actually calls them their friends. Eeeee! Gabe’s toxic, tumultuous relationship with her mother will break your heart and want to give her a big squeeze. Gabe’s partner, on the other hand, will make everything seem okay. That everything will be alright. The unwavering support they provide Gabe makes you wish you could have a carbon copy of them for yourself. Seeing the derby community come together to support Gabe - that’s what did it for me. We are a STRONG community. A family like no other. Through personal struggles, eating disorders, broken bones, and shattered hearts, this is a book you will not be able to put down until the very end. It is really THAT good. I would personally recommend this book to anyone, and I don’t say that often. I’m in love with “Brace for Impact,” and you will be, too. Thank you, Gabe. You are a gem. ❤️

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sue Purbrick

    This was a fascinating, gripping memoir that I found very hard to put down. I devoured it. Gabe Montesanti is a queer Midwestern roller derby player who now lives with her wife in Texas. Brace for Impact is her story. Despite only covering her years until early adulthood, it’s nevertheless a sweeping tale about coming of age, dysfunctional families, the LGBTQ community, friendship, sisterhood and otherness. It’s about obsession with body shape. It’s about reinventing oneself, and acceptance. And This was a fascinating, gripping memoir that I found very hard to put down. I devoured it. Gabe Montesanti is a queer Midwestern roller derby player who now lives with her wife in Texas. Brace for Impact is her story. Despite only covering her years until early adulthood, it’s nevertheless a sweeping tale about coming of age, dysfunctional families, the LGBTQ community, friendship, sisterhood and otherness. It’s about obsession with body shape. It’s about reinventing oneself, and acceptance. And it’s about the crazy, fascinating world of roller derby. We learn about Gabe’s difficult relationship with her over-critical mother and her incredible passion for roller derby. Gabe finally finds her people when she joins this world. It’s here she discovers “true friendship, healthy athleticism, accepting community and proud queerness.” I so admire her sheer determination to learn and excel at her chosen sport so that she could play for one of the best teams in the world. She literally throws her all into this and by doing so, meets some wonderful, caring people who are a complete foil for her hopeless family. I love books that open my eyes to other ways of being. This one did just that. It is also beautifully written. Well worth a read! It will be published in May 2022.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie Kalnbach

    Brace For Impact is a memoir centered on Gabe Montesanti's entrance into the Roller Derby world and her journey from beginner to becoming a solid part of her world-class league. It is an intriguing and fascinating look into a sport that has a culture unique from any other. This alone makes it a great read yet, it offers so much more. We are given the privilege of coming along Montesanti's deep dive into building a life beyond the confines of her past and her courageous, frank look at the experien Brace For Impact is a memoir centered on Gabe Montesanti's entrance into the Roller Derby world and her journey from beginner to becoming a solid part of her world-class league. It is an intriguing and fascinating look into a sport that has a culture unique from any other. This alone makes it a great read yet, it offers so much more. We are given the privilege of coming along Montesanti's deep dive into building a life beyond the confines of her past and her courageous, frank look at the experiences that shaped her. We get to root first-hand for her to succeed not only in roller derby but life itself. My life is nothing like Montesanti's and I was not expecting to relate so much to her experiences. But I did. What in my life is similar to roller derby? Not a thing but Montesanti manages to so neatly tie in deeper insights and growth beyond her roller derby experiences, I find myself feeling like her journey echoes my own. A deceptively simple roller derby memoir on the face of it hides the deeply personal, raw story of a woman fighting her demons and fearless steps into finding a community in which she is loved for who she is. I will likely read this book again.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    What a terrific memoir! Montesanti finds her way and her happiness in the Roller Derby, calling herself Joan of Spark, as a grad student. It's the Roller Derby that saves her, in so many ways, from the damage from a childhood filled with criticism from her mother that led her into self destructive behavior. Oddly, it's the injury that puts her on the sidelines for a period that causes her to recalibrate and become even stronger; the time spent thinking is time well spent. It's about the family w What a terrific memoir! Montesanti finds her way and her happiness in the Roller Derby, calling herself Joan of Spark, as a grad student. It's the Roller Derby that saves her, in so many ways, from the damage from a childhood filled with criticism from her mother that led her into self destructive behavior. Oddly, it's the injury that puts her on the sidelines for a period that causes her to recalibrate and become even stronger; the time spent thinking is time well spent. It's about the family we make, about coming to love yourself, and about being a strong person. Her writing is terrific and she brings the Derby to life. More importantly, she brings herself to life- you can feel her sitting next to you. It's hard to review memoirs without feeling as though you're judging the author or the author's life choices. That's not the case here because Montesanti has presented an exuberant (yes exuberant) tale of positivity in the face of so many other things. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. Highly recommend.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Memoirs are, by nature, pretty complex creations. They always have been. By shining a light on one period in the subject's life, or one aspect of that life, they function as both confessional, analysis, and, in some cases perhaps, justification for one's actions, beliefs, or behaviors. The best of them, and Brace For Impact is one of those, perform on all levels. Gabe Montesanti or, as I will forever now think of her, Joan of Spark, has presented us with a fearlessly raw and painfully honest look Memoirs are, by nature, pretty complex creations. They always have been. By shining a light on one period in the subject's life, or one aspect of that life, they function as both confessional, analysis, and, in some cases perhaps, justification for one's actions, beliefs, or behaviors. The best of them, and Brace For Impact is one of those, perform on all levels. Gabe Montesanti or, as I will forever now think of her, Joan of Spark, has presented us with a fearlessly raw and painfully honest look into the forces which shackled her for most of her life and the events and people who assisted her in achieving her freedom. On a very personal note; reading a book by a person one knows, about that person who one now knows considerably better, is a rather revelatory experience. It wasn't always a pleasant reveal. That, however, is a tribute to Gabe's skill as a writer and her willingness to lay bare her thoughts and feelings. And I thank her from the bottom of my heart for the gift she's shared with us.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I received this book as an ARC, thank you. I wasn’t entirely sure I would be entertained by this memoir, didn’t know how long Roller Derby would keep my attention. It seemed so far-fetched from my life. However, the authors style of writing had me feeling like I was right there beside her the whole way! Not only was I well entertained, I was feeling her pain- both emotional and physical! I had a hard time putting down this book because I wanted-no, NEEDED to - know what happened next! The compl I received this book as an ARC, thank you. I wasn’t entirely sure I would be entertained by this memoir, didn’t know how long Roller Derby would keep my attention. It seemed so far-fetched from my life. However, the authors style of writing had me feeling like I was right there beside her the whole way! Not only was I well entertained, I was feeling her pain- both emotional and physical! I had a hard time putting down this book because I wanted-no, NEEDED to - know what happened next! The complicated family relationships Miss Joan Of Spark describes and the effect her childhood had on her becoming an adult is one I think so many of us can identify with. What a cool introduction to learning more about roller derby, the LGBTQ community, and just an all around great human being! Great read!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I don't know that I've ever felt so invested in a memoir. Pieces of this struck me in unexpected ways. A good memoir, I think, is a window and a mirror, allowing us a glimpse into someone else's experience and also reflecting back pieces of our own. Brace for Impact, at least for me, absolutely nailed both. I picked it up because it has many of the ingredients I like: a memoir, a midwestern setting (here in STL even!), contact sports, themes of identity and community and found family...I could go I don't know that I've ever felt so invested in a memoir. Pieces of this struck me in unexpected ways. A good memoir, I think, is a window and a mirror, allowing us a glimpse into someone else's experience and also reflecting back pieces of our own. Brace for Impact, at least for me, absolutely nailed both. I picked it up because it has many of the ingredients I like: a memoir, a midwestern setting (here in STL even!), contact sports, themes of identity and community and found family...I could go on. It delivered on every promise! The writing is so, so solid: a real balance of introspection and straightforward storytelling. I imagine it's hard to write about roller derby so it makes sense both in practice and significance to a reader who knows nothing, but mission accomplished! It felt good to read. A real treat of a memoir. I didn't want to put it down.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Gabe's story is about her induction and assimilation into the world of roller derby. But it is also about her coming to terms with her sexuality, her relationship with her girlfriend and her family, and her bulimia. She moves to St. Louis and finds the community she feels right in, and who embrace her, in the world of roller derby. But when she suffers a devastating accident and is immobile for months, she faces the family who has never accepted her and the eating disorder that has plagued her. S Gabe's story is about her induction and assimilation into the world of roller derby. But it is also about her coming to terms with her sexuality, her relationship with her girlfriend and her family, and her bulimia. She moves to St. Louis and finds the community she feels right in, and who embrace her, in the world of roller derby. But when she suffers a devastating accident and is immobile for months, she faces the family who has never accepted her and the eating disorder that has plagued her. She wonders if the friends she met through the derby are only there when she is able to be an active participant; she wonders if she can reconcile her troubled relationship with her mother. All of this comes to a head during the latter portion of the book. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

  26. 4 out of 5

    leah

    Trying to find herself after leaving a conservative midwestern town and an abusive mother, Gabe Montesanti joins a roller derby league and it helps her find her place in the world. What led me to this book was the cover and the title. This was a hard book to read. Not in a bad way, but the content could be triggering to some people so I advise you to check the trigger/ content warnings. This is actually the first memoir I have read, and I am not much of a fan of nonfiction, but I liked it way mor Trying to find herself after leaving a conservative midwestern town and an abusive mother, Gabe Montesanti joins a roller derby league and it helps her find her place in the world. What led me to this book was the cover and the title. This was a hard book to read. Not in a bad way, but the content could be triggering to some people so I advise you to check the trigger/ content warnings. This is actually the first memoir I have read, and I am not much of a fan of nonfiction, but I liked it way more than I thought I would. Based on my experience, I would probably reccomend this to someone who is looking to get into memoirs. Really happy I got a chance to read this. Of course, thank you to NetGalley and the publisher.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zinzee Noel

    I had no idea what roller derby was but a little Google search brought me up to date with the whole concept. I am so glad that I read this memoir because a lot of Montesanti's problems with her mom I can relate to. It is not easy having to learn how to be positive and learning how to love yourself. I think that a lot of how we can become confident should be instilled from our parents, however, many fail to do such. Instead, some choose to belittle their children. The author is so strong for havi I had no idea what roller derby was but a little Google search brought me up to date with the whole concept. I am so glad that I read this memoir because a lot of Montesanti's problems with her mom I can relate to. It is not easy having to learn how to be positive and learning how to love yourself. I think that a lot of how we can become confident should be instilled from our parents, however, many fail to do such. Instead, some choose to belittle their children. The author is so strong for having to go through these events and eventually finding her way. I am thankful that she found such an outlet to help her appreciate herself. The fact that she is queer makes this 10× better. Thank you for writing such a strong and beautiful story.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Abi Huff Hobgood

    Thank you NetGalley for my ARC! ”Before I could talk myself out of it, I jotted down my name and passed the clipboard on. At least for tonight, my desperation was louder than my shame.” Brace for Impact is a poignant exploration into the power of found families in the midst of recognizing the toxic behaviors in your birth family. Montesanti artfully explores being raised in an abusive home, the lasting impacts of her mother’s relentless shaming, and stumbling upon the derby community when she need Thank you NetGalley for my ARC! ”Before I could talk myself out of it, I jotted down my name and passed the clipboard on. At least for tonight, my desperation was louder than my shame.” Brace for Impact is a poignant exploration into the power of found families in the midst of recognizing the toxic behaviors in your birth family. Montesanti artfully explores being raised in an abusive home, the lasting impacts of her mother’s relentless shaming, and stumbling upon the derby community when she needed it the most. I loved every second of this book. Montesanti’s voice was like talking to a friend. I genuinely cannot wait to buy a physical copy!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carol Arnosky

    Gabe Montesanti (Joan of Spark) has written an incredible memoir about Roller Derby and her compelling personal journey. I enjoyed this book immensely: as the proud mother of a jammer, as a cheerleader for all things derby, and as a mom who wanted to hug Gabe and all of her friends and teammates as they helped each other navigate life. I highly recommend this book to all roller derby enthusiasts - whether you are a Junior, Fresh Meat, Veteran, Retired, an All-Star or a Fan. As a mom who has watch Gabe Montesanti (Joan of Spark) has written an incredible memoir about Roller Derby and her compelling personal journey. I enjoyed this book immensely: as the proud mother of a jammer, as a cheerleader for all things derby, and as a mom who wanted to hug Gabe and all of her friends and teammates as they helped each other navigate life. I highly recommend this book to all roller derby enthusiasts - whether you are a Junior, Fresh Meat, Veteran, Retired, an All-Star or a Fan. As a mom who has watched countless bouts, I appreciated that this memoir reveals some of the 'behind-the-scenes' action, including skater trials and tribulations, Derby joy and especially the Derby Family Love.

  30. 5 out of 5

    K TEA

    Growing up queer in a conservative Midwestern town, Gabe Montesanti never felt comfortable in her own skin. A competitive swimmer, she turned to perfectionism and self-control to create a sense of safety, only to develop an eating disorder and constantly second-guess her instincts. This book was hard to read. Not because it was not a good book because it was such an awesome story. It was hard because you can genuinely feel the author's story in your bones. I wanted to hug the book so tightly onc Growing up queer in a conservative Midwestern town, Gabe Montesanti never felt comfortable in her own skin. A competitive swimmer, she turned to perfectionism and self-control to create a sense of safety, only to develop an eating disorder and constantly second-guess her instincts. This book was hard to read. Not because it was not a good book because it was such an awesome story. It was hard because you can genuinely feel the author's story in your bones. I wanted to hug the book so tightly once I was finished but alas it was an e-copy!

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