The Contender by Robert Lipsyte This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 16, 2009
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“Before you can be a champion, you have to be a contender.”

The Contender is the story of Alfred Brooks, a 17-year-old African-American high school dropout who is torn between the street life of his Harlem neighborhood, and his dreams of becoming a champion boxer. Alfred goes through rigorous training as he struggles to improve himself and overcome his doubts of his ability. I believe that boxing is a way for him to prove to himself that he has the heart of a contender in the boxing ring and in life even as his former life try’s to control him. His childhood friend James is involved with a gang and battling a drug addiction and Alfred is caught between two different worlds.

Robert Lipsyte’s experience as a sports journalist is evident by his spirited depiction of the hard work and discipline it takes to become a boxer. I think that these details are what make the story authentic and what brings the reader into the ring. Lipstye brings his sports journalism skills together with his writing skills and creates a fantastic piece of literature. Lipsyte explains, “I've always had two writing lives, one as a journalist and one as a fiction writer. They've complemented each other. I love them both.”

I believe this story’s strong protagonist, and engaging storyline makes it a must read for grades 6-12. Though I think those older, and some younger would greatly enjoy this story also.

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