The world of professional wrestling will never be the same thanks to an angel of the purest heart. From the over-the-top melodrama of the wrestling industry, to protagonist Ally Forman’s daily challenges of life as a girl with big dreams and unusual hurdles, SHORT BUS HERO carries you through the full gamut of emotions and leaves you feeling alive at the end. Every time I took a breather, I couldn’t wait for a chance to dive right back in the ring with Ally and her broken champion, Stryker.
Author Shannon Giglio does a fantastic job of not only plotting a story ripe with the kinds of believable-yet-spinning twists to draw you in deeper, but she delivers through a powerful voice full of wit and charm. On the technical side, details spanning from pro wrestling history, technique, and politics, to the medical and psychological accuracy of an insider’s view of Down syndrome, build a colorful and realistic setting as intriguing as the characters themselves. The pacing ebbs and flows between action and drama, allowing time to fully absorb some of the more heartfelt moments before flying off the ropes into fist-pumping action, and the multiple layers of conflict keep tension at just the right pressure to maintain a high level of thrill.
By far, one of SHORT BUS HERO’s strongest aspects is characterization. No cardboard people here. Each person, good and bad alike, possesses his or her unique flaws and gifts. More importantly, they grow throughout as they add dimension and life to the story. These are the kinds of characters one envisions stepping off the page in true Spielberg tradition. Their dialogue is as real as their struggles, from greed to alcoholism, though I have to admit Ms. Giglio does a great job of giving us both issue-riddled adults to make A&E drool, as well as a worst-hangover-ever moment to convince even the staunchest of teetotalers to never want to drink again.
SHORT BUS HERO is a well-written story with a strong plot and ton of lovable character. The overarching themes of tolerance, compassion, and heart of a hero are woven throughout. As engaging as it is touching, I can say at least twice I had to put the book down. I couldn’t see the words anymore. For a beautiful snapshot of a little girl’s heart and a chance to recharge my own, SHORT BUS HERO is a solid five-star, must read.