- Expected Jan 26, 2021
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?
Channeling preteen drama into the larger-than-life sensibility of lucha libre, Wallace, making his #OwnVoices middle grade debut, tells the heartfelt story of MJ Medina, a Mexican American 12-year-old struggling to recover from her father's sudden death. After the racist white girls on her gymnastics team reject her, MJ finds solace training as the youngest wrestler at Mr. Arellano's Victory Academy. Soon, she's stealing the spotlight and helping Mr. Arellano find closure following the death of his 15-year-old wrestler grandson, known as Lightning Boy. Donning his mask and performing as Lightning Girl, MJ lives up to her persona in and out of the ring, going up against a villainous state athletic inspector intent on sabotaging the academy. Like a good lucha antagonist, the inspector all but twirls a mustache; though more about his grudge comes to light, the melding of grandiose plot twists and character-driven realism can feel uneven at times. Nevertheless, the novel makes a convincing and celebratory case for wrestling as catharsis. Ages 8 12. \n