Author: AJ Mendez Brooks
Format: Paperback ARC
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Publishing Date: April 4, 2017
Synopsis from publisher's website:
Recently retired WWE superstar AJ Mendez Brooks is a powerhouse—strong, quirky, and totally confident. But that wasn’t always the case. With humor and tremendous heart, she opens up for the first time about her harrowing struggle to understand her demons and the diagnosis that helped her gain control over her life.
Everything I was told should be my greatest insecurities and weaknesses, everything that I’ve been labeled—SHORT, NERDY, SKINNY, WEAK, IMPULSIVE, UGLY, TOMBOY, POOR, REBEL, LOUD, FREAK, CRAZY—turned out to be my greatest strengths. I didn’t become successful in spite of them. I became successful because of them.
Growing up AJ was a quiet girl trying to act “normal” when she felt anything but. As her family struggled with drug addiction, poverty, and mental illness, she found escape through comic books and video games, and was inspired by the tough and unconventional female characters. It wasn’t until she discovered pro wrestling that she learned superheroes could be real.
Determined to become the superhero she’d always admired, AJ trained and sacrificed for years to achieve her dream of wrestling professionally. Yet she quickly faced industry pressure to play the role of the damsel in distress and to dress more provocatively to cater to male fans. But she fought back and created an ass-kicking alter ego that was a genuine representation of herself: nerdy, enthusiastic, and a little bit crazy.
With humor and tremendous heart, AJ opens up for the first time about her harrowing struggle to understand her demons and the mental illness diagnosis that helped her gain control over her life. What most people view as a hardship, AJ embraced as inspiration for her superhero persona, shattering the stigma attached to mental illness.
Charting her journey from a scrappy girl in an unstable home to an empowered wrestling champion, Crazy Is My Superpower is an unflinchingly honest story and brave confessional about her long road to self-acceptance.
This book is NOT at all what I expected.
Like most books that I review, I did not read the full synopsis...for this one, I didn't read it at all. The title was enough to catch my attention. So, when I received the ARC in the mail, to my delight, I found out this book was about a female WWE wrestler and her rise to the top.
I have an on and off relationship with the WWE. Back when AJ Lee was proving herself in the ring and striving for fame, I was likely riding on the UFC bandwagon. The fact that I did not know her prior to reading this book added extra emphasis on what she stood for.
AJ describes her past so vividly. Born into a family that was constantly down on their luck, moving from one place to another, never really settling on a place to call home. She was the youngest of three children, with parents who were children themselves. In a nutshell, she had a hard life. After striving to get into college, NYU, nonetheless, she was forced to drop out to care for her ailing mother who was diagnosed as bipolar. Even as a child, the one thing that managed to bring her joy was her love of the WWE. As an adult, she made a decision to pursue her dream and entered the WWE training camp. From that point on, AJ was focused on one thing - being the best!
After reading her book, AJ Lee has become an inspiration to me. She outlined many times in her life where she showed her ability to put family and her own mental health struggles first. She knew that by not caring for herself, there was no way she could care for others and fulfill her own dreams. Once she learned how to manage her illness, AJ put the pedal to the metal and didn't look back.
She did a lot for women in the WWE. Changing the executives' and fans' perception of what a female wrestler should look like was the first thing. She stepped out of the Diva spotlight and expectation and fought in the ring in street clothes. A t-shirt, jean shorts and knee high Chucks. AJ aimed to capture the love and popularity from not just male fans, but from female fans who hope to one day follow in her footsteps.
One of the most powerful parts of the book that stood out for me was when she was describing a storyline that was pitched to her that required her to act as "The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend". Given her own experience with mental illness, she confidently refused and readily accepted any repercussions including the potential of ending her career. This was important, because AJ refused to bend. She refused to fuel the fire and stereotype that women are needy and dependent on men when a relationship ends. In the end, standing her ground put her in an even better position with the WWE and furthered her professional and personal life.
Even if you don't know who AJ Lee is or are not a fan of the WWE, I would still recommend picking up this book. Crazy Is My Superpower is a powerful autobiography that speaks to mental health, standing up for what you believe in and women overcoming barriers in a male dominated profession.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of Crazy Is My Superpower by AJ Mendez Brooks from Penguin Random House Canada for an honest review. All opinions are my own.