Friday, 29 January 2010

Review: Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak

Publisher: Definitions
Format: Paperback
Released: January 28th, 2010
Grade rating: B+/A-

Amazon summary:

Keep it clean, fellas. Fair fight. Okay. Do it. Don't go down. If you go down, get up. The bell, the fists, the fight. It begins, and the first round is death. The second round is the coffin. The third is the funeral. The Wolfe brothers know how to fight - they've been fighting all their lives. Now there's more at stake than just winning.


The fantastic Mr. Zusak is back, with a long-awaited UK reprint of his early novel Fighting Ruben Wolfe, which was first published in Australia in the year 2000. It's not quite in the same league as The Book Thief, but his excellent writing and characterisation still shines through in true Zusak style.

Brothers Cameron and Ruben Wolfe head up this gritty tale of family and fighting, and show just what determination and a sense of pride can achieve. When their father loses his job and starts struggling to pay the bills, the brothers know they have to do something. An underground boxing ring provides the perfect way to make quick cash, and vent some anger at the same time.

Zusak's depiction of the Wolfe family is so realistic it's hard to remember you're reading about fictional people. They face the prospect of going on the dole, vicious rumours about their daughter's sexual promiscuity and the worrying need for more money. It's refreshing to read about everyday problems like these, rather than exaggerated situations that are impossible to relate to. I don't know whether any of these plot lines stem from personal experience on the author's behalf, but whatever the reason for their inclusion, I'm just glad they're there.

Ruben's fight scenes, though quite harrowing, are action-packed and suspenseful. They'll no doubt be a big hit with the boys, and will give girls an insight into a very male-orientated sport. The same can be said for the male narration. It's such a nice change to be in a guy's head, and to see what they really think about girls, school and life in general.

Fighting Ruben Wolfe is a story about pride, strength and that unbreakable bond between two brothers. It takes a simple premise and gives it depth and emotion, while never straying from the authenticity of the situation. I only wish it was longer, which would have allowed for more development and more time with the Wolfe family. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel, Getting the Girl, will be released here one day, as I need another new Zusak fix as soon as possible.


So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I really love the name Ruben for some reason! Markus Zusak is one of those authors that I mean to read but never have. Great review, Jen!

kate.o.d said...

have you read 'the messenger'? it is effing brilliant. also try to get your hands on 'when dogs cry' and 'the underdog'. i'm so glad they are re-publishing these books, i love them. but damn on that rep who was telling me that there was a new zusak, only to find it's these old ones again!

Luisa at Chicklish said...

I agree - Ruben's a lovely name! I've never read anything by Markus Zusak either, but the more you talk about him the more I think I should! Thanks for a fantastic review - it sounds like a great book.

Jami said...

I wanted to read more male characters and point of view stories this year. Thanks for letting me know about this one!

RaĆ­la said...

Have read only one book by Markus Zusak and he's writing is gorgeus. I'm currently reading I Am The Messenger, hoping it's as good as The Book Thief!

Allie said...

This is the only book by Zusak I haven't read. Now I must get my hands on a copy! Thanks for the wonderful review!

The Book Owl said...

Good review. I've actually never read anything by Zusak. I know, shame on me!

Becky said...

Well, I am big fan of The Book Thief but I just can't imagine enjoying a book that involves boxing. I like the fact that it is about the bond between two brothers but still, sport? I feel the urge to run in the opposite direction. Fascinating review though! I do want to try I Am Messenger.

LovesSam said...

I seriously need to buy me some Zusack, I feel like a total fiend that I haven't read his books!

choco (In Which a Girl Reads) said...


I'm just about the craziest Zusak fangirl out there. I mean, The Book Thief is one of my all time favorite books ever. So beautiful.

I've been trying to get my hands on Reuben Wolfe for a while. Glad to know it's brilliant as well!

Phia said...

Becky- Fighting Ruben Wolf is the second novel in this series, and the only one concerned with boxing. You could read the other two (The Underdog and When Dogs Cry, or Getting the Girl in the US), and skip FRW altogether. You wouldn't get confused plot-wise. You'd regret it though!