TAKEDOWN by Laura Shovan
Mikayla Delgado goes by Mickey when she wrestles. With two older brothers and a dad who love wrestling, she’s grown up with the sport. Her best friend, Kenna, has been her training partner and Mickey is ready for the two of them to move up to the Eagles travel team. When they arrive for the first practice, they’re informed that they cannot be on the competitive team because they are girls. Kenna decides that she doesn’t want to wrestle after all so Mickey is left looking for a new competitive team and facing the fact that she’ll have to do it without her partner.
Lev Sofer is determined to make it to State this season. Last year, when Lev lost to Nick Spence, he cried after the match. Nick saw him and told everyone at school. This year, Lev is going to do what it takes to defeat his nemesis.
Mickey and Lev are brought together when Mickey joins Lev’s team, the Gladiators, and the coach pairs them as training partners. The story unfolds with alternating chapters told from each character’s perspective. Eventually, Mickey and Lev become friends, but as State qualifiers approach, they must also accept the reality that only one of them can win.
This is so much more than a book about wrestling, although I learned a lot about the sport and appreciate how the author took care in helping her readers out with the technical terminology and insider knowledge of the sport. This is also a novel about family, friendship, and challenging the expectations others have for us.
TAKEDOWN would be a wonderful addition to any middle grade book shelf. Its themes of friendship, family, divorce, competitive sports, and facing stereotypes will appeal to a wide range of readers. You know your students best and who needs what book at what time in their reading lives.