Slamdown Town tells the story of Ollie, an 11-year-old wrestling fanatic as he pursues his dreams, deals with changing family dynamics, and realizes the importance of friendship…all told against the backdrop of professional wrestling. Aimed at eight to twelve-year-old readers, the novel is fast paced, filled with middle school humor, and takes place in a colorful universe which is dominated by a struggling local wrestling company.
The story begins with Ollie dealing with a rapidly deteriorating relationship with his eighth grade brother Hollis, and his favorite form of entertainment (the local Slamdown Town wrestling promotion) looking as if it is on its last legs due to stale creativity and mismanagement from its cartoonishly evil CEO. Then, in the spirit of Shazam or Tom Hanks in Big, Ollie discovers a way to magically transform his body into that of a tall and muscle bound wrestler, at which point he decides to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler and winning the Slamdown Town championship. With the help of his best friend Tamiko, Ollie struggles to learn the in-and-outs of becoming a professional wrestler, and how to balance his dream of becoming champion with the responsibilities that come from being a friend, a student, and a younger brother.
The story in Slamdown Town is fairly formulaic (which is not necessarily a bad thing when considering the target audience), and once Ollie becomes a professional wrestler it reads like a “create a wrestler” arc from a video game as he first must learn about costume design, then how to effectively “smack talk” his opponents, and then finally develop his own finishing maneuver. Along the way Ollie interacts with a number of wrestlers whose personalities and gimmicks appear to be one in the same, but are mostly written in ways that will capture young readers’ imaginations. Similarly, while some of the wrestling scenes might read a little clunky, they are fast paced and over-the-top enough that most readers will probably find them entertaining in the intended cartoony way that they are presented. Additionally, for a novel focused on the world of professional wrestling, the authors do a nice job of presenting a fairly gender inclusive story as Ollie’s best friend happens to be a sixth grade girl, and the women wrestlers in Slamdown Town are more than capable of holding their own against the male counterparts.
Overall, this was a breezy 300 page read (spruced up by a number of fun black-and-white illustrations) that I believe most eight to twelve-year-old wrestling fans would thoroughly enjoy reading. That said, if your reader is not already a fan of the crazy world of professional wrestling, you might want to give this one a pass, as they will be less likely to feel connected to the story and characters presented within it.