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Fighting Ruben Wolfe

By Markus Zusak

The tough and tender debut of a brilliant new novelist 

This is the story of Cameron and Ruben Wolfe, two brothers from a family clinging to the ragged edge of the working class. Initially to make some money, the boys hook up with a sleazy fight promoter who sees something marketable, audience-pleasing in the untrained brothers’ vulnerability. And it’s no WWF fake-wrestling that the Wolfe brothers are drawn into – it’s real boxing, with real pain, and real consequences.

But the brothers soon find that they’re fighting for more than tips and pay-off money. It soon becomes for them a fight for identity, for dignity, and for each other. We can’t remember a more affecting portrayal of the relationship between two brothers, or a more natural, convincing rendering of a teenage voice. It’s an emotional, gritty, two-fisted debut.


We get up early and run….The light steps at us between the buildings. The train line is fresh and sweet and the grass in Belmore Park has the echoes of dew still on it. Our hands are cold. Our veins are warm. Our throats suck in the winter breath of the city, and I imagine people still in bed, dreaming. To me it feels good. Good city. Good world, with two wolves running through it, looking for the fresh meat of their lives. Chasing it. Chasing hard, even though they fear it. They run anyway.

Reviews and Awards

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A CCBC Choice
Winner of the CCBE Straw Poll for the Printz Award
Honor Book, Australia Book of the Year for Older Readers
New South Wales Premier's Award

“The fast-paced narrative captures the physical rigors of the boxing ring as well as the emotional turmoil and the ultimate unity of the troubled Wolfe family. Each chapter ends with a quiet conversation between the two brothers - usually a late-night dialogue as they lie in bed - that shows the heart beneath the bluster. The earthy characterizations, volatile family dynamics, and sports theme make this a match for Chris Lynch’s Shadow Boxer.” - Horn Book Magazine

“In earthy, working-class dialect, Australian novelist Zusak offers a lot of sports action as well as a sensitive inspection of sibling relationships and family pride. Through Cameron's voice and observations of everything from family dinners to fights to dog races, Zusak compellingly relates how the two brothers respond differently to internal and external conflicts. While Cameron lives in fear, Ruben grows increasingly hardened. The moment of truth comes when Cameron and Ruben are forced to meet each other in the ring.” - Publishers Weekly

“From Australia, Zusak debuts with an intense tale about boxing, brotherly solidarity, and searching for self-respect. Zusak's eccentric language - a smell is “raucous,” a pause “yawns through the air,” a young woman has “eyes of sky” - gives Cameron's narrative a slightly offbeat air that suits the brothers’ escapade: part lark, part a real effort (however misguided) to break from the unpromising path down which they seem to be going. The book closes on a rising note, with the brothers, and the whole Wolfe clan, closer than ever, showing real signs of regaining its feet. Engrossing.” – Kirkus Reviews

Purchase Options
Amazon • Barnes & Noble

Spring 2001
Young Adult Fiction
ISBN: 0-439-24188-X
Price: $15.95/$22.99
Trim Size: 5 1/2" x 8 1/4"
Page Count: 176
Foreign Rights: Scholastic Australia
Translation Rights: Scholastic Australia
Rights Available? yes

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