Thursday, October 04, 2012

Wrestling books-- Pinned and One Shot Away

PinnedFlake, Sharon. Pinned.
1 October 2012, Scholastic
ARC from

Autumn struggles in school but does a great job on her middle school wrestling team. She has an enormous crush on Adonis, who is very academically gifted, the manager of the wrestling team, and in a wheel chair because of a birth defect that resulted in his lack of legs. Autumn's biggest academic struggle is her poor reading skills, which result in her dislike of reading of any kind. She makes some attempts at improving, mainly so that she can stay on the wrestling team and impress Adonis, who finds her very annoying... at first. Autumn volunteers in the school library to be near him, and he comes to find her rather attractive, especially when another boy, Roberto, also likes her. Autumn does get put off the team and makes more attempts to improve herself.
Strengths: I liked so many of the characters. Adonis is brash and cocky, Autumn is like so many of my students who struggle with reading and vocally "hate it" as a response, and the parents and teachers are supportive and interesting. Autumn's parents dropped out in the tenth grade and don't want her to repeat their mistakes, so do try to read with her at home. The depiction of a girl wrestling is great.
Weaknesses: This lacked focus. Autumn's struggling with being a girl wrestler are touched on but never discussed enough. While she has all sorts of supportive people around her, none of them do anything effective--- why isn't she tested, identified, given tutors? Her coach says he will work with her, but never does. Her parents fall through. Even the librarian is ineffectual. I know this happens again and again, but it was painful to read. 

I will still buy this, because it has a nice mix of romance and academic struggles, and there's not a lot of that in middle grade literature. I do wish the picture on the cover weren't of such a very thin girl. Look at her arms! Twigs! And she wrestles?

One Shot Away Coughlin, T. Glen. One Shot Away.
12 October 2012 
ARC from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

Diggy's father is living vicariously through his sons. Diggy's older brother did very well, but is now in college and enjoying his studies and NOT wrestling. The biggest problem Diggy faces is that he is always hungry and has gone up a wait class, so he may lose his spot at 152 to Trevor unless he can cut enough.

Trevor's father died in a car accident, and he and his mother are running a seedy motel for a man interested in Trevor's mother. Trevor gets constant grief for being Native American, but he is a better wrestler than Diggy.

Jimmy is hoping to become a PE teacher, but his father is involved in some shady thefts at construction sites, and has taken Jimmy along with him. When the police start investigating, Jimmy knows that this could ruin his chances at a college scholarship, which is his only chance out.

Not only do we learn lots of interesting things about each of these characters, who are struggling so hard to make their way in the world, we get a good look into the team dynamics of wrestling and absolutely terrific descriptions of wrestling. Coughlin clearly paid a LOT of attention when he attended his son's wrestling meets. I have decried the lack of wrestling books for middle grade students repeatedly; unfortunately, some of the topics in this book make it more appropriate for high school, so I am once again disappointed. I don't have the book here in front of me (already have given it to a wrestler whose parents I know-- he was beyond thrilled!), but I seem to remember a scene with a prostitute that I could have done without. Still, readers who love Alfred C. Martino's Pinned (had a pregnant girlfriend in that one) and other titles like Wallace's Wrestling Sturbridge, will love the vivid descriptions and flawed characters in this book. Now, Mr. Couglin, can you PLEASE write a middle grade appropriate wrestling novel for me?


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