The Contender

By Robert Lipsyte,

Book cover of The Contender

Book description

The breakthrough modern sports novel The Contender shows readers the true meaning of being a hero.

This acclaimed novel by celebrated sportswriter Robert Lipsyte, the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in YA fiction, is the story of a young boxer in Harlem who overcomes hardships…


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Why read it?

3 authors picked The Contender as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

The mantra for this novel could be that the effort matters more than anything—the attempt, the trying. Winning is something, but it’s not everything. Brooks, a high-school dropout, has to find his way in a world where his closest friend is dying from drug addiction, his household is broken, and street thugs are after him. Against all odds, if you love something and want it, the pursuit of that dream can help those who chase it with enough intensity to possibly overcome the hardship. When so many boxing stories are written with utter bleakness, there is light here.

From Jonathan's list on boxing with tough, vulnerable characters.

Robert Lipsyte wrote a powerful coming of age novel entitled, The Contender. Alfred, a Black seventeen-year-old high school dropout, lives in New York City with his aunt after his father left and his mother died. Alfred is wasting his life hanging around gang members, until they want to break into the store where he works. Alfred forgets to tell them about the new alarm system and they beat him up. He is found nearly unconscious and helped home by Henry, who works at a gym where its owner, Mr. Donatelli, trains famous boxers. Alfred decides to train to be…

High school dropout, Alfred Brooks, lives in the inner city. He’s hounded by street kids when he parts ways with his best friend’s involvement in drugs. Alfred finds consolation and hope at Donatelli’s gym where the owner sees potential in Alfred as a boxer. Alfred learns that making the effort can change his life and when he loses he gets up and tries again. Becoming a contender becomes his self-identity. Such an important lesson for all of us but especially vulnerable young readers, my students. I loved Alfred’s determination and Mr. Donatelli’s recognition of his potential and refusal to give…

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