Twelve-year-old Will Tyler’s passion is football. Not only does he love the sport, he also excels at it. Will has been looking forward to starting seventh grade and the beginning of the new football season. His team lost the championship last year when he fumbled the ball just feet from the goal line. He wants to show everyone that he and his teammates can be the real champs this year.
"Lupica does a superb job of tying all the different parts together and making it sound believable."
But the trouble is, not only might they not make it to the finals, they might not even make it onto the football field. There is no money to pay for extracurricular activities at the middle school this year, which means the sports program will have to be cut, beginning with football. Severe cutbacks have already been made due to lack of funding in previous years. As a result, the kids have no uniforms (the old ones were worn out and thrown away), and their stadium is falling apart.
There are not even many kids left in town to play on the team. Most have moved away since the Forbes Flyer shoe factory shut down, taking most of the businesses down with it, and forcing a number of families to move elsewhere to find work. A lot of them have relocated to Castle Rock, the town just on the other side of the river, which is the home of their arch rival football team, the Castle Rock Bears. Businesses are going strong there, and the kids have a new stadium and get new uniforms every year.
Facing a year without football, Will knows he has to do something to save the team. When he’s able to secure funding from an unlikely source, who is willing to pay for new uniforms, stadium repairs, and all the other necessary items needed to get the team back onto the field, he thinks his troubles are over. Unfortunately, lack of funding isn’t the only issue threatening the season. Can Will find a way to rescue the team, salvage his pride, and give the town something to cheer about this year?
Mike Lupica has written a good story, but includes technical terms that are rarely explained for the non-hardcore sports fan. There are several mentions of Custom 574 shoes, made by New Balance. It almost seemed like he was making a sales pitch for them, which I thought was a bit strange for a book such as this one. Nevertheless, I did enjoy THE UNDERDOGS as Lupica does a superb job of tying all the different parts together and making it sound believable.
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on September 20, 2011