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Book Review: Bump by Matt Wallace

Publisher’s description

A moving and triumphant middle grade contemporary debut from award-winning author Matt Wallace about a heroic young girl—who dreams of becoming a pro wrestler—learning to find courage and fight for what she loves. Perfect for fans of Kelly Yang, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds’ Track series!

MJ knows what it means to hurt. Bruises from gymnastics heal, but big hurts—like her dad not being around anymore—don’t go away. Now her mom needs to work two jobs, and MJ doesn’t have friends at school to lean on.

There is only one thing MJ loves: the world of professional wrestling. She especially idolizes the luchadores and the stories they tell in the ring. When MJ learns that her neighbor, Mr. Arellano, runs a wrestling school, she has a new mission in life: join the school, train hard, and become a wrestler.

But trouble lies ahead. After wrestling in a showcase event, MJ attracts the attention of Mr. Arellano’s enemy at the State Athletic Commission. There are threats to shut the school down, putting MJ’s new home—and the community that welcomed her—at risk. What can MJ do to save her new family?

Amanda’s thoughts

A very long time ago, way back in the 1980s, I was a child who liked to watch professional wrestling. I liked the theater of it all, I liked the huge personalities with weird names (Hulk Hogan! Macho Man! Junkyard Dog! Rowdy Roddy Piper! Sgt. Slaughter!), and I liked watching it with my brother, my dad, and my uncle. I just now googled “professional wrestlers of the 80s” and seeing all of those photos of wrestlers totally threw me right back to being young and shouting at the tv over the moves, booing the “bad guys,” and being amazed that they could do such amazing moves. All of this is to say that I was a kid a loooong time ago, but reading about MJ and her love of wrestling reminded me of that childhood and that amazement.

12-year-old Mexican American MJ is a 6th grader in middle school. She doesn’t really have any friends and is frequently bullied by the meanest girl on her gymnastics team and her minions. MJ was bullied by her so much, in fact, that she didn’t go out for the team this year. All she really wants to do is hide out and watch Lucha Dominion, a pro-wrestling show, which helps connect her with her dad, who is, as she says, “gone.” Wrestling is there for her even if her dad isn’t. It’s a great stroke of luck that the new place she and her mom live in is right next door to Mr. Arellano, who runs a wrestling school (and whose niece is MJ’s favorite luchadora). MJ convinces her mom to let her start training at the school, where she not only finds that wrestling is just as fun as she’d expected it to be, but she’s finally making friends. When she begins wrestling as the masked Lightning Girl, MJ finds herself becoming a star of the weekly shows.

But it’s not all sunshine. There’s a nefarious state athletic commission inspector determined to shut down the school. And there’s some drama with a new friend. And then there’s the whole issue of how MJ is dealing with her father being “gone.”

While centered around wrestling, this is a very relatable story about belonging, friendship, family, and falling down and getting back up again. MJ is a great character who is brave, determined, and interesting. This will be a fun one to recommend for how unique it is while still having such relatable emotions and experiences.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780063007987
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/26/2021
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Book Review: It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura

tltbutton6Publisher’s description

This charming and bittersweet coming-of-age story featuring two girls of color falling in love is part To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and part Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like the fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California, she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy…what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

it's not like16-year-old Sana Kiyohara has recently moved from Wisconsin to California. Her parents sort of dropped the bomb that the family was moving and expected her to be fine with it. Her mother’s motto is to endure things and bear them without complaining. Sana isn’t sure that’s exactly the best or healthiest way to go about life, but it’s not like she has a lot of other options. Life in Wisconsin wasn’t great, but it was all Sana knew. She had a crush on her former best friend (who’s now too popular to really be her friend) and always stuck out as one of just a few Asian kids in her otherwise very white school. Her peers say crappy things to her like that it’s cute that she went “woohoo” to the “Midwest farmer’s daughters” part of “California Girls” because it’s not like she looks like one (says her “friend”). Her former bestie says it’s like Sana forgot she’s Asian, but that’s okay, because they forgot she is, too.

 

Now, in California, Japanese-American Sana is surprised to find that her new school is super diverse. This different student body brings different problems. There is a lot of racism and embracing/believing stereotypes going on, from a lot of people. Sana’s mom makes a TON of racist comments about the Mexican kids in Sana’s school (and, eventually, Sana is forced to confront the fact that she believes some of these same racist ideas). Teachers make assumptions about kids because of their race. Sana is instantly befriended by a group of Asian girls (Vietnamese American and Chinese American), just as her new friend Caleb (a white goth guy) predicts (a prediction Sana finds silly). She likes feeling like her new friends understand her in ways her white friends didn’t, but negotiating the new groups and attitudes takes a lot of adjustment.

 

Sana’s biggest adjustment to everything comes from her relationship with Jamie Ramirez. She goes from telling herself it’s just a “girl-crush” to admitting (to herself) that she likes her but doesn’t “need this” right now to dating her. Jamie is out to her friends and Sana tells her small group of friends they’re together, but she’s not out to her parents or the school population in general. The girls are really into each other and have a sweet relationship, but issues of race and identity keep coming up and making them have to recalibrate things. But when Jamie hangs out with her ex-girlfriend, Sana gets some mixed messages about what may be going on and makes some questionable choices (at the urging of her friends who pull the whole “yeah, but how do you really KNOW you only like girls?” thing). Everything seems like it’s falling apart and Sana no longer feels certain about anything–not her new friendships, not things with Jamie, and not her life at home. As mistakes and secrets and lies pile up, Sana has to have many big conversations to help set things right, going against her upbringing of enduring things in silence.

 

There is SO MUCH packed into this book about race, culture, family, identity, silence, and truth. I do wish some of the secondary characters had been allowed to develop more fully and to feel less like they were jut there to teach Sana about racism and race beyond her own. Though the second half of the book felt less tightly plotted, overall this is a book worth adding to all collections for its look at intersecting identities, grappling with racism, and finding your way to your truth.

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss
ISBN-13: 9780062473417

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Publication date: 05/09/2017