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Review: Takedown by Ali Bryan

Takedown by Ali Bryan

Ali Bryan
DCB Young Readers
Published May 11, 2024

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About Takedown

Sixteen-year-old star wrestler Rowan Harper’s biggest fan is her father.

But he has ALS, and his symptoms are getting worse. Saving his life will cost more money than the family has, but Rowan finds a solution. Will she risk her chances at a scholarship by competing in a lucrative, but illegal, underground MMA fight?

Takedown is a high-intensity coming-of-age story about family illness and competitive combat, with lots of heart, hope, and headlocks.

My Review

This is a fiercely compelling read about a girl wrestler readying herself for a big tournament and struggling with the grim progression of her father’s ALS. The author doesn’t pull her punches. These scenes are filled with big emotions, high-stakes combat, and heartwarming family moments.

It’s also got a lot of attitude. Rowan, definitely not a morning person, grouches her way through the early hours of the day. She keeps secrets more and more as she faces greater pressure to do something to help her dad. She doesn’t always think things through– which made me grind my teeth sometimes, but reads so realistically.

I liked that both Rowan and her best friend, Pia, are wrestlers, and they’re super different from one another. Pia thrives on fashion and is an online influencer. Rowan is more of a purist athlete: most of what she does is train and compete around moments with her family and boyfriend.

I cried multiple times while reading this book. Sometimes, a moving line caught me just right, and other times, a heartbreaking turn of events brought me to tears. I feel like I didn’t even have a lot of time to ask myself whether I *liked* Rowan. She is such a compelling character that it almost didn’t matter, if that makes sense.

I think I like her. Although her choices often frustrated me, I understood why she did what she did.

All in all, this book is a win for books about girls in sports, and books about wrestling. It’s one of those books that draws you in and won’t let you go until the last page.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Rowan’s dad has ALS. She’s a wrestler on a competitive team. One character is Lebanese on one side of his family and has two dads. Another character is South Asian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
F-bombs appear at intense moments. Other swearing used moderately.

Romance/Sexual Content
Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex. In one scene, a boy and girl quickly undress so they can have sex. (Not shown on scene.)

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Several scenes show Rowan in a fight and wrestling matches in practice and competition. She punches a guy in the face. She helps someone who has obviously been in a fight.

At one point, Rowan wonders if her dad is checked out of life. Like, not depressed/suicidal, but maybe thinking about assisted suicide.

Spoiler: Death of a parent. (Select text to view.)

Drug Content
Rowan and her friend drink beer at her friend’s house. They attend a party and drink more. Rowan ends up super drunk and sick and embarrassed about it later. Rowan’s brother, Ike, smokes cigarettes he gets from a neighbor. He comes home smelling like weed in one scene.

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