Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Underdogs

The Underdogs
by Mike Lupica
Philomel, 2011. 280 pgs. Fiction

Will Tyler loves to play football but may not have the chance since the Forbes' Flyers footwear company (his team's sponsor) has gone out of business and the vastly diminished town cannot afford the $10,000 needed to field a 12-year old football team. When, against all odds, Will lines up a deep-pockets sponsor for the team they still struggle to come up with enough players. The Underdogs is loaded with sports cliches--a girl playing on a team who doesn't want her; the kid whose Dad is so full of invective for his own son's play that he decides to quit playing; the deceased mother and the embittered former football playing Dad; the last-game-of-the-year deciding game against the snotty champions--but they all work beautifully. (Important to remember that the familiar forms of sports fiction are likely not familiar to the kids who will be reading this book.) Will is an admirable protagonist, wise beyond his years and a good sport and thoughtful player at an early age. The back-and-forth wisecracking amongst team members is fun and pitch perfect. And Lupica's descriptions of game action will be dear to the hearts of football fans. All in all, a terrific sports story for tweens and reluctant, sports-minded readers.

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