My next books were Fighting Ruben Wolfe and Getting the Girl by Markus Zusak. Since these two are part of a series* I’m going to put them in the same post.
These books are the story of brothers, family, and the struggles of life.
In the first, Fighting Ruben Wolfe, the Wolfe family is struggling to get by. Mr. Wolfe, a plumber, has been out of work since he was injured when a pipe burst in his face. He’s recovered from his injuries, but can’t seem to get a job. Mrs. Wolfe cleans houses and works shifts cleaning at the hospital. They accept rent from their two older children, but refuse to let the two pay anything extra to help the family get by. Ruben and Cameron are still in high school and hate how people see them, as poor and insignificant. When Ruben gets into a fight defending their family, the boys are offered a chance to fight for money.
Wanting to make names for themselves and prove they aren’t the screw ups everyone things they are, and wanting to help their family, the boys agree to fight. Cameron becomes The Underdog, the scrappy fighter with heart, and Ruben becomes Fighting Ruben Wolfe, the up and coming young fighter. But with the brothers loose sight of why they are fighting or lose themselves in the process? And what happens when their family finds out or they have to fight one another?
In Getting the Girl, it has been a year since the events of the first book. After hitting rock bottom, Mr. Wolfe has finally been able to find work, and the family is getting back on their feet. Ruben now has an apprenticeship and is going through girlfriends faster than most. Cameron takes a liking to one of these girls, Octavia, a beautiful harmonica player. When Ruben dumps her, the two strike a friendship, that turns into more. Cameron has never had a girl like him, and wants to treat her with the respect Ruben failed to. But what happens if Ruben finds out? Will it put a rift between the brothers?
The books are told from Cameron’s perspective. He gives insights into his family members, especially his brother. In the first book, each chapter ends with an italicized section that takes place at night before the brothers fall asleep in which Cameron inevitably asks Ruben something and ponders their situation. In the second, this is replaced by a section that is titled and is supposed to be written by Cameron as he starts to write. It is these pieces that helps Octavia to fall for him, and what made me go “Wow! Zusak is good!” Cameron’s insights grow from not just into his family, but into life in general. They really show Zusak’s writing ability and his potential to be a great writer. I can definitely see why he is this year Edward’s Award winner and I can’t wait to read The Book Thief.
My only gripe is the slightly ambiguous ending to Getting the Girl. I can’t tell if Cameron and Octavia end up together, at least for the time being, or not. I give the series as a whole Four Lightsabers.
*I should note that there is a book before Fighting Ruben Wolfe, The Underdog, that until recently was unpublished in the US. As it is not on YALSA’s list of books, I did not read it.