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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