Tap Out by Eric Devine
Running Press Teens- September 11, 2012
314 pages - Young Adult, Fiction
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Read what this book about here.
I received a digital galley, free, in exchange for my honest opinion.
This originally caught my attention through the BEA Book Buzz I received from Netgalley. When I saw that it was about mixed martial arts, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. When I read about Tony’s first time at the gym I had to laugh. That was me the first time that I walked into a mma gym, and I was only there to watch! Later, I tried to figure out why they clapped for me when I could barely block the punches that were flying at my face. My biggest strength in the beginning was making the guys work their butts off trying to pin me. I was (am) stronger than I look. This is probably true for everyone who dances in the cage. Sometimes while reading I had flashbacks of guys that I sparred with. Tap Out does an amazing job of mirroring real life.
With some stories you have to get grimy with it. It’s that point past dark and surreal that takes to the ugly side of reality. Devine got real grimy with Tap Out and I think it makes this story stand out even more. Unfortunately, Tony’s story is one that too many teens will be able to relate to. The great thing about it is that it gives these same teens a voice in a language that is their own.
This review has been written at different points throughout the reading of this book. I only mention this because I’ve had to stop reading for a bit. I had to stop because I couldn’t breathe. There are so many emotions coiled up inside of me that they are beginning to suffocate me. Anger at Tony’s situation forcing him into the monster he didn’t want to become. Sadness because he doesn’t see/understand that he always has a choice. Frustration because I know that understanding that he has a choice is almost impossible because of his situation and environment. Fear because as an outsider I can see where the path he’s on will lead him. Desperate because Tony’s face is replace by the faces of youth that I’ve worked with in the past who can relate to Tony’s tory, if not lived out their own version. Anger because this story – even down to the MMA crew – is drenched in way too much accuracy to be comfortable. Hope – a shred is left – that Devine has given Tony an out. Dammit! There are too many that don’t have an out and I really need Tony to have one.
At this point, I finished the book and I’ve reminded myself that this is just a story. There was blood, death, hope and a small sense of fear at the end. But, the only word I can say to sum up what I think about Tap Out is Wow!!! I love this book for so many reasons that I will do my best not to bore you. First, I have to say that Devine has accomplished a monumental thing. He has written a book that is relevant to teenage boys and one that they will read. Tap Out is Tony’s story. Tony is a flawed character who has been dealt a shitty hand and lives in an impossible situation. His story removes the veil that people have allowed to cover their eyes. People want to survive no matter where they come from or what it looks like to outsiders. Surviving and thriving looks differently to people depending on their situation. I’m not saying this to make excuses, only to ask that people reserve judgment. Some people have it harder than others. Another reason I loved this book was because the characters were well-developed and they came to life. Though it wasn’t pretty, it felt real.
MMA is a world of its own. If you’ve never been on the mat you wouldn’t understand it. The guys who punch you, kick you ad roll with you really do become family. I didn’t know this when I started. Being the only female didn’t matter. I had their backs and they had mine – on the mat and off. Your MMA crew will lift you up and carry you when you don’t have the strength to walk. They will stand with you and help you face whatever, and they do it with strength and honor. They don’t leave you, they make you stronger.
There were plenty of opportunities for Devine to fail, but he did not. Thank you, Mr. Devine! I hope that Tap Out finds its way into the hands of anyone who needs the hope to keep fighting even what they get caught in an arm bar or clinch, or some other uncomfortable and slightly painful position in life. I hope that they understand that there’s power in not tapping out.
Recommendation: Everyone needs to check this book out! But most especially those who work with teen boys who may be written off and not encouraged to live up to their potential.
What’s Next? I can’t wait to see what Devine’s going to write next!!!!
5 Grimy Stars *****
I found another 2012 favorite