Life would be easier if it were more like professional wrestling. It would be simple to tell the good guys from the bad guys, the “faces” from the “heels.” Everyone would know who will win, and it would be simple to decide who to cheer for.
In Pura Belpré Honor author Celia C. Pérez’s Tumble, 12-year-old Adela “Addie” Ramirez is struggling with the fact that life isn’t quite as clear-cut as the wrestling matches she watches with her beloved stepfather, Alex, who has helped raise Addie since she was young. Addie will soon have a new sibling, so Alex has asked if she would consider allowing him to legally adopt her. But Addie can’t stop thinking about the one part of her life that Alex and her mom won’t talk about: the biological father she’s never met.
Professional wrestling is a big deal in Addie’s small town of Thorne, New Mexico, because the Cactus Wrestling League holds its matches in Esperanza, the town next door. With some help from her best friend, Cy, and the local historical society, Addie discovers that her biological father is Manny “The Mountain” Bravo, of the famous Bravo family of wrestlers. Eager to learn more about him, she insists that they be allowed to meet before she will discuss adoption further. As Addie gets to know the Bravos, she begins to learn that life is never as simple or as easy as right or wrong, good or bad, family or not family.
Tumble is a complex, emotional story about loss, self-discovery and belonging, about forgetting who you were and remembering who you are. Pérez’s depiction of Addie’s journey to connect with Manny and her extended family of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins—all of whom she feels were unfairly kept from her by her mother—shines with honesty and touching authenticity. Addie experiences fear, awkwardness and a growing sense of connection and acceptance as she comes to understand that sometimes, people cannot change who they are, even if it hurts the ones they love.
Addie confronts a series of difficult choices, and although she wishes she could be like a luchadore and hide behind a mask, she must fight for what she wants and who she wants to be. Tumble reminds readers that sometimes heroes (and villains) are not who they seem—both in life and in a wrestling ring.