Book: Underdogs by Markus Zusak
Once again, for those not paying attention, this book includes the first three books Markus Zusak wrote, a trilogy of sorts about the brothers Cameron and Ruben Wolfe. I had previously read the second two books, but never the first one. So as soon as I got this book, I read that first book, The Underdog, and reviewed it here. Then I debated re-reading the second two books.
But I couldn't stand not to, so of course I gave in and read them too! And I'm so glad I did! I got TONS more out of them than I did the first time around. Awesome, very poetic writing! Wonderful observations on the relationship of brothers, the importance of family, the coming of age, and the finding of oneself. All done in way no one else can. And so it continues, my Markus Zusak fanaticism.
But before going further, I thought I'd give each book it's own little summary.
The Underdog: In which Cameron moans about his life, and how he lives in the shadow of his cool older brother Ruben, and how they plot and plan all sorts of devious things,but never have the guts to follow through. Cameron also has issues with his love life, and wants so bad just to talk to a girl (though he dreams of much more than that!) and how he worries for the well-being of his family and all their various real-life problems, including his dad losing his job.
Fighting Ruben Wolfe: This book starts out with the dad without a job and the family quite down and out. Cameron feels like they should be helping somehow, but they don't know what. They spend their days loitering around the city and generally up to no good. But then they are contacted by this dude who wants them to be fighters in his boxing matches. They debate a bit, and then decide to do it which changes so many things, but especially how they view each other. And the question comes up, which is more valiant... winning or losing?
Getting the Girl: Ruben is now basically a neighborhood celebrity and can have any girl he wants. He trades them in and out every other week. This makes Cameron crazy! When Ruben dumps the latest girl, Cameron ends up with her, but when Ruben finds out, oh my word, things get ugly! Once again their whole relationship changes and things may never be the same again, until one night when Cameron has to make a big gut wrenching decision.
These books are first and foremost about this powerful brother bond these two have going. They fight, they tease, they are up to no good, but they are there for each other. Even Ruben, who you have to wonder about some of the time, is full of heart and emotional ties to his family and brother. It's a fascinating thing to read, and then as always, the way Markus Zusak writes it, you FEEL it. It make me wonder if he had this very same relationship with his own brother. It seems to real to think otherwise.
Secondly, the books are about the growth of Cameron Wolfe. It's through his eyes we see all these events unfold. He is constantly in his brother's shadow, which for the most part, he doesn't mind. But sometimes he wishes for things that seem impossible, and it's a really crazy look we have inside his mind. He has to come to terms with who he is, what part of him is separate from his brother and what part is his own self.
Finally, it's about family. The way Cameron describes his feeling for his family is so powerful. These parts had me weepy many times. He calls his mom brilliant. He loves his sister for her insight into his real self. He admires his older brother Steve for his ability to handle life, and then there's his dad... his dad who struggles with finding a job and feeling worthless. The family feels crazy that he won't go get help, but when he does, they cheer him on keep trying before giving in....because they know how bad he doesn't want to give in. It's so wonderfully real! Oh, and don't forgot the bond he has with Ruben, mentioned up above there.
As I said before, I think the first book, The Underdog, was a warm up act for Markus Zusak. These second two books you can see he gets the feel for his poetic sense and that amazing imagery that he's famous for. It's a blast to read, and you feel like you need to write down every other sentence for the profoundness they carry. This writing really truly blows me away, as always.
Bottom line: I loved it!
Other Reviews.... okay so I'm having a hard time finding reviews for the book (from normal people not professional sites, right?) Except for Jenny's review on The Underdog here. But... lots of people have it! Lots of Mailbox Mondays are reporting that! So people, what are you waiting for?
Oh and P.S.... I forgot to mention that one of the best parts of this book is the forward by the author. He says that having these books be published (especially The Underdog) again is like letting the world see his high school picture. And there's lots that he would like to change, but that it's better just to let them be. He also says that Cameron is basically him, and Ruben is his brother... sort of. He also says, "... and I know I'm a little more alive for having written these books, and I hope the same thing happens for you, in the reading." Yep, I must say, I am. Thanks Markus Zusak!