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Will Tyler can fly on a football field. He may not be the biggest running back around, but no one can touch him when it comes to hitting the hole and finding the end zone. And no one can match his love of the game. When Will has a football in hand, he may as well be flying for real because life can't touch him - his dad isn't so defeated, his town isn't so poor, and everyone has something to cheer for. All of which does him no good if the football season is canceled. With no funding for things like uniforms and a cared-for playing field, with seemingly every other family moving to find jobs, there simply isn't enough money or players for a season. Unless one kid can rally an entire town and give everyone a reason to believe . . .
In the hipster romance “Garden State”, Natalie Portman talks about original moments in human history, and I’m pretty sure I lived one yesterday. I feel it is safe to say that no one else has ever spent four hours reading Mike Lupica’s THE UNDERDOGS while getting their hair straightened in a Korean salon in South Carolina. I’m not a sports fan, so I figured I would need to be strapped into a chair with chemicals on my brain to make me want to read a book about football. It turns out that wasn’t necessary; THE UNDERDOGS is fast-paced and spirited.
Twelve-year-old Will Tyler can fly when he’s playing football; he’s the fastest thing to ever take the field in Forbes, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Forbes’ sneaker factory has closed and the town can no longer afford to sponsor a youth football league. Football is Will’s life, so he decides to take matters into his own hands and contact the CEO of New Balance to request sponsorship and regain some of the community’s pride. Once he has the money, he still has a long way to go in pulling together enough players, a coach, and his town.
THE UNDERDOGS is a feel-good story with a familiar and beloved plotline. The title tells the reader what they will get: lovable misfits who scrap together a team and make a play for the championship. There are very few plot twists that will surprise readers, but that does not make the novel any less fun. Sports fans will be taken with the action scenes, which set the reader in the middle of the field, running alongside Will and his friends.
The popularity of dystopian fiction and more novels that could be described as Recession Lit interests me. Books have always been a way for adolescents to cope with difficulties in their lives. The closing of the sneaker factory and Mr. Tyler’s underemployment will be relatable to many readers, making it an easy book to recommend to readers whose families are struggling economically.
One of the best things about THE UNDERDOGS is how it will appeal to developing readers. I know many adolescents who don’t consider themselves readers, but will devour this novel and then ask for more. THE UNDERDOGS is a gateway book that will hook kids and have them searching the shelves for more by Mike Lupica.
Check out more of my reviews at www.bookchomper.blogspot.com.