Losers Take All – David Klass – Farrar, Straus and Giroux – Published 20 October 2015
At Jack Logan’s sports-crazy New Jersey high school, the new rule is that all kids must play on a team. So Jack and a ragtag group of anti-athletic friends decide to get even. They are going to start a rebel JV soccer team whose mission is to avoid victory at any cost, setting out to secretly undermine the jock culture of the school. But as the team’s losing formula becomes increasingly successful at attracting fans and attention, Jack and his teammates are winning in ways they never expected—and don’t know how to handle.
Losers Take All is absolutely hilarious. If you love sport or hate it (or even sit somewhere in between) you will love this book. This is for all the people who sit and watch while others take the “glory” of the big win. Or maybe it’s for those who have been burnt by sport, seen the darker side of competition. Whatever their story, readers will love this fun-for-all, take-no-prisoners tale of friendship, family, high school and sport. I dare you to read it and not break into side-splitting laughter.
Jack’s school is known for its dominance in sport, particularly football. But things go a bit far when a new school rule is introduced: all students must join a sports team. Jack and his friends, along with a band of althetically challenged misfits, create a c-grade, co-ed soccer team. Their goal is not to win but simply be true to themselves, and maybe survive this school term without major injury. But no one is more surprised than the team when their style becomes an internet sensation and sparks a mini revolution against sport-based violence and bullying.
When I say this book is hilarious I mean it. And not just a few funny lines here or there, but total out-of-control-laughter funny. Some parts read like the funniest blooper reel and that’s just from the first two minutes of the team’s first game. But while I knew this was going to be a fun read, I was surprised at its depth. There are some serious issues covered, everything from family breakdown and parental expectation, to addressing bullying, abuse and violence.
Jack provides the narration and is an authentic male teen voice. He doesn’t set out to prove he has anything against sports. In fact, he comes from a family who has a proud sporting history. He’s not some big hater. Actually, he wouldn’t mind trying to win and has a fair bit of talent. So when the team becomes famous for losing it challenges him. It challenges his friendships, his relationship with his dad and even his goals for the future. I loved hanging with his friends and team mates, from Frank who proves he really can sleep standing up and Coach Percy, the ageing Latin teacher with surprisingly effective pep talks based on historic battles. They are a group of such interesting personalities and are totally loveable. High school crushes, laughs, injuries, mid-field collisions and confronting the school’s whole social structure. Look out, here they come.
And then there is Principal Muhldinger. Self proclaimed sports god, high school football coach and now principal. It is from him that comes the new mandatory sport rule. Oh my gosh, what an absolute …. I don’t have words for how awful and completely out of line he is.
There is a small touch of romance in this book. It’s not a huge focus, but provides a sweetness and, again, a depth to the story. It perfectly compliments and balances this tale.
I was kind of worried about how the story would develop. How could it finish? Would the team get better and have to purposely lose? I was happy to discover that the whole thing flows perfectly. I loved the end. I loved every minute of this fantastic book, the characters, and the message.
This is the new thing in sports fiction, where being the losers is far cooler than it first may seem.
The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Abuse, sport, football, soccer, bullying, equality, friendship, romance, relationships and dating.
Reading age guide: Ages 12 and up.
Advisory: References to violence.
Published: 20 October 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 320 pages.