In earthy, working-class dialect, Australian novelist Zusak offers a lot of sports action as well as a sensitive inspection of sibling relationships and family pride. Times are tough for the Wolfe family now that Mr. Wolfe, a plumber, has been injured on the job ("He's half a man, because it seems that when a man can't work and when his wife and kids earn all the money, a man becomes half a man"). While narrator Cameron tends to keep his family's troubles locked inside, his brother Ruben lashes out with his fists. So, when a classmate taunts the boys with a derogatory remark about their sister, who has been "gettin' around a bit," Ruben pummels him. News of the fight spreads, and, a few days later, Ruben and Cameron, who has "heart" ("People throw money into the ring corners if they think you've got heart," says the organizer), are invited to participate in illegal boxing matches. Through Cameron's voice and observations of everything from family dinners to fights to dog races, Zusak compellingly relates how the two brothers respond differently to internal and external conflicts. While Cameron lives in fear, Ruben grows increasingly hardened. The moment of truth comes when Cameron and Ruben are forced to meet each other in the ring. It's a somewhat overneat ending to an often provocative book. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Gr 7 Up-Cameron Wolfe is perfectly happy to be an underdog, as long as he has his family by his side. But things are starting to fall apart for their family: his father lost his job, his mother is working too hard at two jobs, his sister is busy partying, and his oldest brother is planning to move out. Cameron and his other brother, Ruben, have always been the vagabonds of the family, happy to be irresponsible and undependable. Now, though, they both feel a deep responsibility to the family and a need to find their self-respect once again. When offered the chance to earn extra money by boxing, both brothers decide to participate and discover more about themselves than just their ability to fight. Markus Zusak's short, yet hugely insightful book (Arthur A. Levine Bks., 2001) tackles the themes of self-worth, family relationships, and what it really means to be a fighter in life. Stig Wemyss brings Cameron vividly to life with an authentic Australian accent and a teenager's sense of wonder and self-discovery. This heartwarming tale of brothers banding together to keep a family going comes across beautifully in audio format. This is the second title in a trilogy about Cameron Wolfe, but it can stand solidly on its own. A great addition to both public and high school collections in need of contemporary fiction, especially for boys.-Jessica Miller, West Springfield Public Library, West Springfield, MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.