Before Markus Zusak wrote the insanely popular novel, The Book Thief, he wrote three books about the Wolfe Brothers. Readers can catch up on this series by checking out Underdogs, which combines the trilogy into one volume.
The Underdog is Zusak's first novel that was originally published in Australia. This series is told from the viewpoint of Cameron, the youngest of the Wolfe family who greatly desires to grow beyond his hardscrabble upbringing and become something more. In The Underdog, Cameron and his brother Ruben constantly fight, terrorize the neighbor’s dog and prowl the neighborhood looking for trouble. Their mother is embarrassed and abhorred at their behavior calling them "animals".
Fueled by his crush on a girl he meets while working and some disturbing dreams, Cameron begins to make changes and fight back against his reputation as a loser. It is interesting to read this earliest work from Zusak and see how his writing has improved, but the vivid characters and engaging stories were there from the beginning.
In Fighting Ruben Wolfe, Cameron and Ruben become part of an underground fighting ring. Fighting for their self respect, both brothers, including small and young Cameron fight weekly for tips. While Ruben destroys all of his opponents, Cameron scraps his way through the season. In the last fight of the year, the matchup falls on Cameron and Ruben to fight each other.
The last of the trilogy, Getting the Girl, begins with the Wolfe brothers and Ruben's girlfriend, Octavia making beer ice blocks as a way to split the only drink in the house. Cameron falls for Octavia, who Ruben soon becomes bored with. After they split, Cameron begins dating Octavia, until he is verbally destroyed and betrayed by Ruben. Cameron begins writing, keeps fighting to get Octavia back and proves his own strength by saving Ruben himself.
All three of the novels are short, fast-paced and humorous. It is wonderful to follow Cameron deciding what type of person he wants to be and fighting to get to that end. Fans of any of Zusak's other works, especially I am the Messenger, should read through this trilogy.
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