Brace for Impact by Gabe Montesanti
published May 24th, 2022
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.
This is an incredible and frankly, quite cozy memoir. Check out the content warnings, but this is a story of resilience and ultimately joy. Also it takes place in the Midwest, and at least partly in Michigan! Four stars. I enjoyed my time with it!