The Sweetheart

By Angelina Mirabella
Published on January 20th 2015
Published by Simon & Schuster
Source: Publisher
A debut, coming-of-age novel in which a teenage girl from Philadelphia leaves her old life behind to become The Sweetheart, one of America's most infamous female wrestlers.

It's 1953 and seventeen-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is cartoonishly tall and curvaceous, destined to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and living with her widowed father, Franz, in their Philadelphia row house. Until the day legendary wrestling promoter Salvatore Costantini walks into the local diner and offers her the chance of a lifetime.

Leonie sets off for Florida to train at Joe Pospisil's School for Lady Grappling. There, she transforms into Gorgeous Gwen Davies, tag-team partner of legendary Screaming Mimi Hollander, and begins a romance with the soon-to-be Junior Heavyweight Champion Spider McGee. But when life as Gorgeous Gwen leaves her wanting, she orchestrates a move that will catapult her from heel to hero: she becomes The Sweetheart, a choice that attracts the fans she desires but complicates all of her relationships with Franz, Joe, Spider, Mimi (who becomes her fiercest competitor), and even with herself.

Angelina Mirabella's surprising, affecting, and morally complex novel describes how a single decision can ripple through the lives of everyone around us. How Leonie sizes up the competition, how she triumphs, how she fails, and how she manages, somehow, to endure, holds promise: if she can, maybe we can, too. The Sweetheart showcases Mirabella's breathtaking talent; it is daring, innovative, and powerful storytelling.

Alright so I will be honest, my husband is OBSESSED with professional wrestling.  He loves the drama, the athleticism, and the history of it.  He has been a fan since he was a young child.  Other than the story lines and the occasional really interesting match- I pretty much don't get it.  I watch it with him occasionally because I know he loves it, but I will never be considered a fan.  I saw that there was a book that combined one of his loves and one of my loves (ya-ish fiction) and I had to take a chance.

Wow, am I glad I did!  This book had a little bit of a literary feel to it- it could easily translate to a much more "sophisticated" readership (aka the people who feel like YA is dumb).  The way the author wrote the narration was interesting- it was a woman remembering back throughout her life and retelling her life story- to herself.  I have never read a novel written in that way before- it was absolutely interesting!

I loved how the author blended real people with made up characters.  It was such an enjoyable read- I truly did enjoy the story and Leonie, who is at the heart of this book.  She was a flawed hero.  She made some stupid mistakes.  This is not a golden story, where the heroine succeeds and lives happily ever after.  There are a few golden moments, but this is a story about what happens when you make decisions and that life isn't black and white.

If you enjoy the 40s and 50s, if you love reading tales about wrestling, or even if you simply want a good book on a topic you probably haven't read before- I highly reccommend this one.

(There are a few scenes where Leonie makes a poor decision about posing for some.... inappropriate pictures to make money for her family.  It does not go into great detail, but it is the only thing I would caution for younger teen readers- Leonie is not a young teen in this book, she is 18-20 and has relationships that are more appropriate for 18-20 year olds.)

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