Why I Read It: Have been a wrestling fan since before Hulk Hogan took down the Iron Sheik.
Summary: The full backstory behind the rise of "A.J. Lee."
My Thoughts: There are wrestlers' autobiographies, and then there are autobiographies by people who became wrestlers, but who understand that they are not fully defined by what happened between the ropes.
April Mendez faced ridiculous odds. Her life started with bouts of homelessness and, when she had them, homes under the duress of domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness. Much of her youth was spent wondering: why do my parents fight each other? why are all of our belongings on the sidewalk? why am I so hungry all the time? The fact that she became a superstar wrestler is not the surprise; making it to adulthood with any kinds of goals and dreams intact was the real longshot.
Her story - exceptionally well written, in no-holds barred style - is of breaking free and being pulled back down. Ultimately it's of overcoming the restraints associated with mental illness and driving toward goals. It's of bucking the system - why should all women in professional wrestling look the same, play the same role? - and redefining the place of women in the sport. And, in the end, it's of early retirement, getting into a cutthroat world and getting out of it before it was too late.
This book is an inspirational as it gets. And, for those of you instantly judging it as "a wrestling book," know that what made A.J. Lee spring forth from April Mendez took many years. This is not ringside play-by-play. It's the unscripted life story that got an undersized girl obsessed with anime and video games into the spotlight of the WWE, against all odds. The wrestling stories come and go quickly in the book, just a brief phase of the life of April Mendez.