Body Slammed!

Ray Villareal
Piñata Books • 2012 • 194 pages
ISBN: 978-1-55885-749-0
Paperback ($11.95)
Ages 12 and up

In this sequel to the well received My Father, the Angel of Death, 16-year-old Jesse, like many adolescents, has a tendency to see what’s lacking in his life, and to overlook his blessings. Disappointed and angry that his football coach won’t give him more playing time, and that his father—a professional wrestler—never makes it to his games, still adjusting to his parents’ divorce and to his mother’s relocation to Dallas from San Antonio, and bored with friends who he is beginning to view as losers, Jesse is ripe for some excitement when TJ, his father’s new young associate, takes an interest in him. Soon enough, Jesse—who only has a learner’s permit—is driving TJ’s muscle car and joining him at a Halloween party where Jesse, the only underage attendee, attracts a young woman who believes the boy is a twenty-something professional wrestler.

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Jesse’s frustrations and his new conviction that TJ is so much cooler than his high school buddies lead him to skip football practice, insult his friends, and lie to his grandparents. Balanced against Jesse’s poor decisions are the love and support of said grandparents with whom he and his father live, the loyalty of his friends, and an idiosyncratic and charming girl named Wally. Jesse’s growing pains are not unusual in young adult fiction, but Villareal’s sharp insight into the weaknesses and strengths of adolescents, his ability to create distinctive secondary characters, and his incorporation of professional wrestling make for an inviting and involving mix, and young readers will bite their fingernails over Jesse’s nearly-disastrous final fateful outing with TJ. A strong addition to the field of Latino-themed books for young adults.

Coop Renner, Retired Librarian