Fighting Ruben Wolfe is the first book I've read by Markus Zusak. I believe it's the first book he wrote (but I could very well be mistaken!). And honestly, I loved it to bits. Everyone will probably say 'you liked this, you should DEFINITELY read The Book Thief' - yes, I know this. I do. And after reading this, I am that little more excited to read The Book Thief, but books are all about timing, and I'm not ready yet. Enough of that, back to Fighting Ruben Wolfe!
Like I said, I loved Fighting Ruben Wolfe. The Wolfe family are kind of struggling. The dad's out of work, the mom (adorably referred to as 'Mrs. Wolfe') is tired and worn down just trying to get by. The youngest two brothers in the family of four children, Ruben and Cam pass the time by going to the dog races and playing One Punch in the back yard. Until things start to go badly, with people saying bad things about their sister, and their dad going door-to-door to find any kind of work. Which is when the boys start boxing in this sleazy boxing circuit to regain some of their pride and make a little money.
In the end, it's not really about boxing (though I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading the boxing bits!) but about brothers and family and pride and getting back up after you get knocked down, whether it be in the ring or in life. I absolutely adored the relationship between Ruben and Cam. Where Ruben is good looking and wise cracking, Cam is sort of sensitive and cares too much. But they both have such loyalty to each other, to their family. It was sort of heart-wrenching to read. And while everything in the book is so gritty and tough with these two boys and their not-so-great living conditions and the boxing, it's filled with so much emotion and relateable characters.
I was a bit sad that I finished it so quickly, that it wasn't longer. I will be absolutely relieved when I get my hands on a copy of the sequel, Getting the Girl. And yes, other books by Markus Zusak as well.
I don't normally write down notable passages (even though I usually feel bad that I don't) but I did while reading this book. Like this on page 80:
I'm ready now. I'm ready to keep standing up, no matter what. I'm ready to believe that I welcome the pain and that I want it so much that I will look for it. I will seek it out. I'll run to it and throw myself into it. I'll stand in front of it in blind terror and let it beat me down and down till my courage hangs off me in rage. Then it will dismantle me and stand me up naked and beat me some more and my slaughter-blood will fly from my mouth and the pain will drink, feel it, steal it and conceal in it in the pockets of its gut and it will taste me. It will just keep standing me up, and I won't let it know. I won't tell it that I feel it. I won't give it the satisfaction. No, the pain will have to kill me. That's what I want right now as I stand in the ring, waiting for the doors to open again. I want the pain to kill me before I give in...