This refreshing and well-written novel introduces readers to sixth graders Mikayla (Mickey) and Lev, both of whom participate on a travel wrestling team. Lev is not pleased when Mickey, a dedicated wrestler from a family of champions, is assigned to be his new partner. Ultimately, though, Lev and Mickey forge a friendship by confronting sexism in the sport, particularly in the person of their coach who isn’t in favor of female wrestlers.
Laura Shovan weaves together the parallel and intersecting stories of Lev and Mickey, with each character narrating alternating chapters. Both deal with typical middle school problems of self-identity: They question where they fit in with their friends, at school, within their families, and on their wrestling team. Through Mickey, Lev, and their teammates, Shovan helps young readers think through these concerns too — but in an understated way. She also inserts subtle references to Jewish celebrations including Shabbat and Hanukkah (Lev is Jewish), and familiarizes readers with the rules and excitement of wrestling.
Even for readers unfamiliar with wrestling, Takedown may inspire them to confront difficult situations in their own lives and, if they follow the example of the very real and likable protagonists, will make wise and mature decisions.