Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules, the memoir of AJ Mendez Brooks - aka the second longest reigning Divas champion in WWE history, AJ Lee - hits digital and brick-and-mortar bookstores today, April 4.
You can order a copy at this link. Yes, that goes to the Amazon Smile page for the local animal shelter for which my wife & I volunteer, but having read the book, I’m pretty sure AJ wouldn’t object - even though she isn’t a cat person like we are.
Enough about me, though. How’s the book?
Okay, one more thing about me - for the sake of disclosure. I'm a big fan of Mendez-Brooks and her husband Phil (you may know him by his other name, CM Punk). If you're thinking about buying this book, I'm guessing you can say the same. I’m here to tell you, however... you don’t need to be to enjoy and get something out of it. In fact, I really hope Crazy Is My Superpower breaks out to a wider audience beyond pro wrestling fans, because it’s a good read, but more importantly, has a great message.
If you’re picking this up for 288 pages of how to become or what it’s like to be a pro wrestler, you might be disappointed. It's not an in-depth story of the wrestling life, a la Chris Jericho and Mick Foley's early books. There's plenty of insight into what a wild and mostly unglamorous journey it is to get to the highest levels of pro wrestling/sports entertainment, but if you're looking for a lot of detail on that part of AJ's story - and certainly if you crack open these pages seeking dirt about WWE, the on-screen and backstage players, or her husband's dramatic exit from the company - this ain’t that.
This is the tale of overcoming things which are much larger than locker room politics.
With an engaging style which will be familiar to anyone who watched her on Raw as a curmudgeon-you-want-to-hug, AJ lets her readers know what it was like to grow up feeling like an outsider, in a family constantly stuggling to get by. The chaos is fueled by her mother’s mental illness - a diagnosis Brooks eventually learns she shares with her mom. That doesn’t make their relationship any easier, and AJ is open and honest about the pain that causes her to this day, even as she shares how she’s learned to deal with it.
She’s opened up about her own bipolar diagnosis in the past, and AJ provides real insight into the challenge of treating the condition in the book. It’s not something that goes away because a psychiatrist gives you a prescription, or that you ever are really cured of even when doctors land on the right course of treatment - and Brooks makes that clear here in a relatable way that’s sometimes touching, and sometimes laugh out loud funny.
There is plenty of wrestling, as she covers the big beats of her rise from training in a New Jersey warehouse, to being signed by WWE, to being routinely featured in major angles on Raw. At times, her appraisal of her own skills - especially in the ring - will probably bristle some fans who don’t agree with her assessment. But if anything, she probably undersells her out-of-the-ring importance to the “Women’s Evolution” we’re seeing in the company today. She only briefly touches on her Slammys speech calling for the company to push Bayley & the Horsewomen class at NXT, or her Tweets to Stephanie McMahon during the #GiveDivasAChance movement, for instance.
And she’s open about how her two big relationships that started at WWE, with her husband and “other life partner”, Celeste “Kaitlyn” Bonin, developed. There’s even probably some dirt here, if you read between the lines, in which members of the women’s locker room she never mentions...
As talented as she is, this is AJ’s first time as a published author, and at times it shows. The narrative jumps around a bit, which can give you a feel for what it was probably like living her youth with an unstable home life, and in her head when her brain chemistry imbalances were un or incorrectly diagnosed, but sometimes left me with an unsatisfying number of questions about what happened. Brooks more than makes up for that with a vibrant creativity, populating the book with “how to”s and lists in side chapters entitled “Diary of an Unfit Mind”, and by enlisting the aid of comic book great Rob Guillory to provide chapter break images. I would love to read some fiction from the pen of April Brooks (casting my vote for her to follow Punk into the funny book business).
Overall, you’re left with the impression she put a lot of effort into making the book appealing to casual and non-wrestling fans, especially anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider - whether that be because of mental health reasons, their gender/sexuality, a toxic family... anything, really. AJ is a talented writer who's dealt with her own insecurities and isolationist tendencies to bring us into her world, with humor and love. Most of us in the audience won't accomplish what she's been able to, but she's here to tell us we can accomplish a heck of a lot, no matter our challenges. And that's really cool.
I flew threw this book and loved every second I spent reading it. Whether you’re an AJ Lee fan or not, I’d tell you to check it out. Then share your copy with someone who might need a feisty superhero - even if they've never watched WWE.