Famed Book Thief author Zusak has put together a fascinating compilation of short novels starring the working-class Wolfe family. It’s more a character study than a cohesive story, but the author examines his characters to great effect; they are interesting, human and wonderfully well developed. However, the decided lack of action suggests that Underdogs might have been more enjoyable as one novel than as three — Fighting Ruben Wolfe is the best of the bunch.
Underdogs documents the life of the Wolfe family over the course of several years through the eyes of the youngest child, Cameron. The primary characters are Cam and his brother Ruben, who spend most of their time roaming a gritty city. Together, the novels show the brothers’ progress from grimy children to hardened young men and accurately describe the pain of being the “loser” sibling and the importance of getting back up, no matter how many times life knocks you down. (SCHOLASTIC, Sep., 512 pp., $19.99, ISBN: 9780545354424, HC, 12 & Up)