Sunday, January 20, 2013

Underdogs by Mike Lupica

Premise: Will Tyler is the quintessential twelve-year-old who eats, sleeps and breathes football. He let his team down last season by fumbling the football on the one yard line against their across-town rivals (Castle Rock), so this year he's got something to prove. It's August again and the stakes are even higher since the town factory has gone bust and the team has lost all of its funding, as well as several players and coaches. 

Title: The Underdogs
Author: Mike Lupica
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Content appropriate for: Grades 5-8

Three Adjectives: inspirational, predictable, page-turner

Pop quiz: What do Rudy, The Express, Invincible have in common? Correct! They are all feel-good football stories and so is this one. Who can resist a good underdog story?

That's the problem; it's good story not a great one. It's a regular David versus Goliath battle both on and off of the field, but the static characters and a predictable plot leave something to be desired.  Lupica does well integrating the full-contact football terms with the compelling game commentary, but only for those who are avid football fans. There's also the problem of the awkward New Balance and Gatorade product placement throughout the book, which makes it seems like a commercial within a story.

For the most part, young adult readers will enjoy this novel, because of Lupica's ability to tell a compelling and believable story. And let's face it, everyone loves an underdog.

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