When I was a middle grader, my grandfather would always take me to several pro wrestling matches each year. We’d sit ring side and I’d get an elbow nudge every time something important happened. Afterwards he’d rave about what a great story we’d witnessed.
I didn’t see the connection then. It just looked like a lot of grown men beating up on each other. It also never occurred to me that pro wrestling or lucha libre in Mexico would become the centerpiece for a new middle grade fiction title. I’m glad it has, especially for those of us looking for something different.
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? (From Harper Collins)
Maya, or MJ as she liked to be called is a strong female character you will cheer for both inside the world of wrestling and out. Most of the scenes take place at the wrestling school where MJ finds new friends. It’s like an extended family—something she needs after her father left and life at school is not going so well. The few chapters set at her middle school portray this feeling with all the nastiness a mean spirited bully can bring.
BUMP brought meaning to those evenings with my grandfather. Yes, seeing it live really is a story to be enjoyed with protagonists and their enemies and you’re hoping the good one comes out on top. The author though wrote it for a different reason:
…I have three nieces under the age of eleven, including my goddaughter, who are all dealing with growing up as brown girls in America. I wanted to write a story in which they could see themselves and feel seen by others, a story in which the were the hero and had agency and hope.
Mr. Wallace, you have succeeded on all fronts.
BOOK BIRTHDAY: January 26, 2021 PAGE COUNT: 288
FIVE MORE THING TO LIKE ABOUT BUMP by Matt Wallace
- MJ makes the perfect MG hero. She’s able to solve a problem even when it’s the scariest thing to do.
- MJ’s mom handles her daughter’s wrestling obsession with concern and worry, exactly how most parents would. It takes a village as they say, and this mom makes a strong presence in her own way.
- You learn a lot about wrestling. Even if you’ve never been a fan before, the story has plenty of heart to keep you engaged.
- The ending is so good! No spoilers but it may bring a tear to your eye.
- The plot line with someone trying to destroy the school was brought along nicely, culminating in an exciting finish readers will love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Wallace is the Hugo–winning author of Rencor: Life in Grudge City, the Sin du Jour series, and Savage Legion. He’s also penned over one hundred short stories in addition to writing for film and television. In his youth he traveled the world as a professional wrestler, unarmed combat, and self-defense instructor before retiring to write full-time. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Nikki. You can visit him at www.matt-wallace.com.