Contender

( 150 )

Overview

Before you can be a champion,
you have to be a contender.

Alfred Brooks is scared. He's a highschool dropout and his grocery store job is leading nowhere. His best friend is sinking further and further into drug addiction. Some street kids are after him for something he didn't even do. So Alfred begins going to Donatelli's Gym, a boxing club in Harlem that has trained champions. There he learns it's the effort, not the win, that makes the man —...

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The Contender

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Overview

Before you can be a champion,
you have to be a contender.

Alfred Brooks is scared. He's a highschool dropout and his grocery store job is leading nowhere. His best friend is sinking further and further into drug addiction. Some street kids are after him for something he didn't even do. So Alfred begins going to Donatelli's Gym, a boxing club in Harlem that has trained champions. There he learns it's the effort, not the win, that makes the man — that last desperate struggle to get back on your feet when you thought you were down for the count.

After a successful start in a boxing career, a Harlem high school dropout decides that competing in the ring isn't enough of life and resolves to aim for different goals.

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Editorial Reviews

ALA Booklist
“A novel filled with hardships and hope.”
ALA Booklist
“A novel filled with hardships and hope.”
Language Arts.
A 17-year-old Harlem boy struggles to become a champion boxer in this excellent novel [recommended] for use in the early phases of secondary school literature study.
Language Arts
A 17-year-old Harlem boy struggles to become a champion boxer in this excellent novel [recommended] for use in the early phases of secondary school literature study.
Children's Literature
The Contender's Robert Lipsyte is the literary grandfather of modern sports series writers like Matt Christopher. However, young readers with a passion for this genre will quickly loose interest. The painfully stiff dialogue, the descriptive narrative with no visible emotional core, and a clearly old-fashioned New York City make this text boring and difficult. The story follows the main character, Alfred, from a daily existence of bullying by the neighborhood gang to the gym where he makes new friends and gains self-confidence. This Cinderella story is poorly told especially in Alfred's almost overnight athletic success. In a matter of weeks, Alfred is transformed from the cowardly target of bullying to a promising young prizefighter. Lipsyte weaves throughout a cautionary tale. Alfred's best friend James makes poor decisions while Alfred chooses wisely. Two sections are noteworthy. During Alfred's training, the stiff narrative loosens and the words flow more like good poetry. The fight scenes read individually are pretty good and might captivate an unmotivated young reader. 2003 (orig. 1967), HarperTrophy,
— Elizabeth Colbroth
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064470391
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/2003
  • Series: Trophy Keypoint Bks.
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 50,294
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 4.18 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Lipsyte

Robert Lipsyte was an award-winning sportswriter for the New York Times and the Emmy-winning host of the nightly public affairs show The Eleventh Hour. He is the author of twelve acclaimed novels for young adults and is the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his lifetime contribution in that genre. He lives in Manhattan and on Shelter Island, New York, with his wife, Lois, and his dog, Milo.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


He waited on the stoop until twilight, pretending to watch the sun melt into the dirty gray Harlem sky. Up and down the street transistor radios clicked on and hummed into the sour air. Men dragged out card tables, laughing. Cars cruised through the garbage and broken glass, older guys showing off their Friday night girls. Another five minutes, he thought. I'll give James another five minutes.

"You still here, Alfred?" Aunt Pearl came out on the stoop, her round face damp from the kitchen.

He tried to sound casual. "You know James. He better hurry or we'll miss the first picture."

"He's never been this late, Alfred. Why don't you go upstairs and call his house? Maybe he's sick."

"James ain't sick." Alfred stood up.

"How you know that?" Her eyes narrowed. "You know where he's at?"

"Maybe."

"He's hangin' out with those worthless punks, ain't he, Alfred? Maybe you just better . . . Alfred!"

But he was already off the stoop and moving fast, his sneakers slapping on the sidewalk. Packs of little kids, raggedy and skinny, raced past him along the gutter's edge, kicking empty beer cans ahead of them. Used to do that too, when we were little, he thought. One thing I could always do better than James. I was always faster. Big deal. He slowed down.

He stopped at the mouth of the alley, and took a deep breath. What am I, James' shadow or something? I don't need him. But he marched to the basement steps, and plunged down into the clubroom.

Hollis and Sonny were sprawled on the long, sagging couch, snapping their fingers to a scratchy record. Major was flexing his arm muscles at thecracked mirror over the mop sink. Only James, trying to read a magazine in the dim light of the naked bulb, looked up.

"Hey, man, what's happening?"

"Nothing much," said Alfred. "Ready to go to the movies?"

"Not unless it's free night," said James.

I got some money," said Alfred.

Major turned slowly and let his muscles relax. "How much you got, Alfred?"

Sonny and Hollis stopped snapping.

I said, 'How much you got, Alfred?"'

"Nothing," mumbled Alfred, staring down at the tips of his sneakers.

"You the only one workin', and you got paid today," said Major. "What you got?"

"Gave it to my aunt," said Alfred.

"'Gave it to my aunt,"' mimicked Major. "You such a good sweet boy. Old Uncle Alfred."

Sonny giggled, and Hollis grinned, buck-toothed. James looked away.

"Don't you know this club has got dues?" Major folded his arms across his bulging T-shirt.

Hollis leaned back in the couch. "Go collect the dues, Sonny. Turn Alfred upside down and make the dues fall out his pockets."

"'Turn Alfred upside down,'" echoed Sonny, blankly. He stood up, taller than any of them and almost as heavily muscled as Major. "Upside down."

"Hold on," said James. "Alfred's my guest. I invited him to come down."

Alfred took a step backward, nearly knocking over an old wooden chair. "Let's go, James."

Major swaggered across the room, the metal tips on his pointed shoes clicking on the concrete floor. "How much them Jews give you for slavin', Uncle Alfred?"

"Jews squeeze the eagle till it screams," said Hollis. "The eagle screams, 'Faster, Alfred, sweep that floor, you skinny nigger.'"

"They been all right to me," said Alfred.

"How come you ain't workin' right now?" said Major, circling until he stood between Alfred and the door.

"Grocery's closed."

"At eight o'clock?"

"They close early on Friday to go to synagogue."

"They go pray for more dollars," said Hollis. Even James smiled.

"No," said Alfred. "The Epsteins are very religious. They don't even touch money after sundown on Fridays."

"That's a lie," said Major.

"No. They even leave money in the cash register so they won't have to . . ." He bit his lip. Water dripped into the mop sink, small explosions in the suddenly silent room.

"Let's get it," whispered Hollis.

"Show us," said Major.

"No, I--"

"You just a slave," sneered Major. "You was born a slave. You gonna die a slave."

"'Slave,'" echoed Sonny.

I see you now, boy, old and stooped," said Major, shuffling to the center of the room. "Old and stooped. You be scratching your head and saying, 'Yassuh, Mistuh Lou, lemme brush them hairs offen your coat; yassuh, Mistuh Jake, I be pleased iffen you 'low me to wash your car.'"

Sonny and Hollis began to laugh as Major shuffled around the dim, warm room, his muscular arms dangling like a monkey's, his eyes rolling, his black head bobbing in ugly imitation of an old-time Negro servant. I can see you now, Alfred, good old Uncle Alfred. 'Yassuh, Mistuh Ben, I be so grat-i-fied iffen you'd kick me now and again, show how much you white folks love us."'

The laughter rose, high-pitched and nervous. Alfred peeked at their faces, black and sweating in the semicircle around him. Hollis and Sonny, grinning and nodding. James' chubby face was set and unsmiling as Major continued his imitation, scratching his nose, pouting his lips, and shambling loosely like a puppet at the end of jerking strings.

Alfred's bands were wet.

"You come on with us," said James. "You know justwhere to--" I

"We don't need him if he's scared," said Hollis.

"He isn't scared, not him," said James. "Look, Alfred, you don't owe them anything."

"They gave me a job," said Alfred, surprised at how far away his own voice sounded.

"Big job," said Hollis.

"Yassuh," yelled Major, shuffling back into the center. "'Mistuh Lou, I been sweepin' out your store forty year now, how 'bout lettin' me de-li-ver groceries on the bi-cy-cle oncet in a while?"'

Alfred swallowed hard. "They was the only ones gave me a job when I quit school," he yelled.

Contender, The. Copyright © by Robert Lipsyte. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 150 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(86)

4 Star

(41)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 152 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 20, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    very Inspiring! Worth every page!

    The Contender is an excellent novel to read with a touching storyline to go along with it. The contender is mainly about the protagonist, Alfred Brooks, wanting to succeed in life. While adding to that subject comes into the play of the art of boxing. After Alfred is jumped he finds a boxing gym where he talks to the coach; Mr. Donatelli, to tell him that he wants to be a champion which leads to the wise words of Mr. Donatelli that outlines the whole story. Mr. Donatelli’s response: “You have to start by wanting to be a contender, the man coming up, the man who knows there's a good chance he'll never get to the top, the man who's willing to sweat and bleed to get up as high as his legs and his brain and his heart will take him.” is very important involving various themes of the story. One of the significant parts to this theme of not giving up is that’s what Alfred has been doing before signing up at the gym which emphasizes Mr. Donatelli’s powerful words that if he wants to be a champion most importantly a contender he has to not give up and have determination to achieve his goals in life, not just in boxing. In the way I saw the novel going the author; Robert Lipsyte, likes to put obstacles into the protagonists life that gave him the option of falling into peer pressure, another ongoing theme, which leads to him going back to his regular life as a grocery boy going nowhere or to refuse the bad temptations and obtain the dream of being a contender. The level of suspense was just a little more than average with the constant choices and problems Alfred had to go through with, but it would still be more than enough to keep me highly interested and wanting to finish another chapter after another. Another aspect to the novel would be the fact that Alfred was just a regular guy that you could relate to, a guy trying to fit in the world, trying to chase his dreams. The fact that everything was so realistic and visual kept me going page after page. There have also been moments in the novel where I felt like Alfred was a role model in a way with that determination to stay above and not quit on what he enjoys and believes in. To add to that Alfred was at his lowest point having his best friend, James, leave him more and more often for his addiction of drugs, having no immediate family, living in the ghetto part of Harlem with his Aunt Pearl, depression, and being a dropout; so you got to give some sort of recognition to Alfred wanting to come up on top. Overall the plot is very simple to follow having an exposition, rising and falling action, a climax, several complications, and a resolution. The Contender is a book that has impacted my life in such a positive way.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Amazing!

    This book was so good! We had to read it for 10th grade english and i couldnt stop reading it!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2009

    Best Boxing Book Ever!

    Book title and author: The Contender by: Robert Lipsyte


    Alfred Brooks is the main character in this story. He has gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. This book teaches you to not give into peer pressure and stand strong in what you believe in. I would recommend this book to middle school and high school kids because it keeps you interested the entire time. You cannot stop reading it because it is so suspenseful.
    Alfred never wants to be in big trouble so he always goes to the movies on Friday nights. He usually wants James to go with him, but James has started hanging out with Major, Sonny, and Hollis; the guys James and Alfred were afraid of when they were younger. When Alfred accidently slips out that the Epstein's leave money in the cash register on Friday nights, Major was all for stealing it. Alfred forgot to mention that the Epstein's had just inserted a new silent burglary alarm.
    I think this books purpose was to teach teens a main goal in life. Since Alfred dropped out of school there were not any good options for him. He got stuck being a bag boy at a local grocery store and not getting enough pay than he should get. The day after the grocery store was robbed the Epstein's did not leave him in the store alone and they did not let him do errands or ride their bikes to the bank.
    Overall I really enjoyed this book. I am glad I had to read this book because otherwise I would never choose this type of book. I also enjoyed when Alfred started boxing in the book. When he got into the ring the book was very descriptive. It painted a big picture in my mind. I would read this book again because it was great.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2009

    good story

    The contender is about a boy named alfred brooks. this book is good because it tells about the troubles of a young boy who lives in harlem and is trying to become a boxer. He must fight the people who want him to do drugs and crime. He also meets plenty of helpful people as he becomes a boxer though and they are probably what save him from becoming nothing.
    Alfred must fight to help his friend james who fell in with a bad crowd. The kids left him at his house to go rob the mr. epsteins store which is where alfred works. Alfred forgets to tell them theres a silent alarm and gets james cought. This angers the people james went out with which were major, hollis, and sunny and now they are after alfred to ruin his life.
    Alfred survives the troubles of the three people who now hate him and his training. He meets people who help him and teach him many things and even gets to help james who becomes addicted to drugs.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2008

    The Contender

    The Contender by Robert Lipsyte is an exciting, action packed novel about Alfred Brooks, a black high school dropout from Harlem, New York who lives with his Aunt and works at a grocery store for a Jewish family, the Epsteins. But the store is leading nowhere. Alfred's best friend, James is suddenly taken over by drugs and singer further and further into his addiction. On top of all this, a group of kids are after him because he did not want to help them rob the grocery store. These group of kids are led by Major, a big bully who is not a big fan of Alfred. Alfred decides to start going to Donatelli's gym, a nearby gym for boxers and all kinds of different fighters. All kinds of boxing champions have trained in this gym including Willie Streeter, a very talented boxer. Alfred makes a lot of new friends at Donatelli's gym, including Jelly Belly, a heavyweight boxer that becomes quick buddies with Alfred. Alfred starts training heavily to become something for once in his life. His passion for boxing will get him back on his feet if he keeps trying as hard as he can.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2013

    I loved the book the contender because it is about a guy who is

    I loved the book the contender because it is about a guy who is weak and gets pushed around and then became strong and boxed and became a better person. This is basically part of my life went from the weak little minor to a strong confident person

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2013

    Bitch

    I hate black people and white:)*************

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2012

    Good

    Good stroy line

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    Great boxing book tap for review

    When i read it for some reason i was just inspired the ending was great to

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2012

    !p

    !hfk

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 21, 2014

    The novel The Contender is an exceptional read for any age, and

    The novel The Contender is an exceptional read for any age, and the intrigue begins very early in the story.  Alfred Brooks, the main character, displays his honor and his courage to stand up for himself by saying no to his friends' dumb idea.  They were going to rob the grocery store he worked at and they wanted his help at being the lookout.  This event shows a continuing struggle throughout the book: Alfred Brooks tries to do right by his Aunt Pearl's rules, but things never seem to work out.  The story of Alfred's life and the peer pressure that surrounds him on his journey to become a boxing champion makes the novel very interesting and adds more dynamics to the plot.  Alfred Brooks' determination to work hard at both his job and also at a local boxing gym owned by the coach Mr. Donatelli really inspired me.  Also, Alfred's kindness and determination even extends to trying to help his best friend James out of drug addiction.  I really enjoyed reading this book and seeing what happened as it progressed.  I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in an inspiring novel about a kid that has the motivation and determination to try to succeed in an unlikely situation.    

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2014

    I the the contender was a very good novel to read. i am a teenag

    I the the contender was a very good novel to read. i am a teenager and i can really relate to the book because i grew up in a similar neighborhood as alfred and the other characters in the book. Alfred was a role model in a way with that determination to stay above and not quit on what he enjoys and believes in. Alfred was at his lowest point having his best friend, James, leave him more and more often for his addiction of drugs, having no immediate family, living in the ghetto part of Harlem with his Aunt Pearl, depression, and being a dropout; so you got to give some sort of recognition to Alfred wanting to come up on top.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014

    Great!

    This is an amazing book that we just finished readinding in 8th grade. It is very heart felt and includes a beautiful story line.. Although the author uses dialect, it is still easy to follow and a tasteful read

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    A brilliant novel

    The Contender first came off to me as one of the stupid books we would have to read in school and answer questions about. That was until I actually began to read it. It was thrilling and beautifully written. I truly felt that I was watching this book as a movie. I felt Alfred Brook's pain. I understood him as though I knew him.
    I highly recommend this book - it's an enjoyable piece of literature that I wouldn't mind reading again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2013

    Good book for middle school kids

    Good book for middle school kids

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2013

    this book is g36912ood for middle school kids. it keeps you on y

    this book is g36912ood for middle school kids. it keeps you on your seat. i think that it will not be a waste of time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2012

    Good book

    I had to read it for 9th grade English Honors. I like it :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2012

    H

    It was bad

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2012

    Hi

    Hi

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Bix Herro

    Y

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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