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Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books July/August 2003
Cam and his older brother, Rube (from Fighting Ruben Wolfe, BCCB 3101), return in this examination of the nature of love, romantic and otherwise. Rube hasn't changed since the last book; he's still a love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy. Cam, on the other hand, is figuring out the kind of guy he wants to be, and it isn't Ruben. Currently a loner ('You're a bit of a lonely bastard aren't y'?' his brother says), Cam is as desperate for human contact as he is for an emotional outlet, and he finds that outlet through a form of self--expression that is almost the antithesis of Rubc's bloody battles in the boxing ring. he writes. On scraps of paper he keeps stuffed in his pockets, Cam evokes his world in smears of words that manifest his longing. When Rube and Octavia (a young woman Cam sees as a cut above the rest of Ruhe's previous girlfriends) break up, Cam emerges from his solitude into a world with Octavia in it; he reveals himself to her, and she has the intelligence to welcome that revelation. Zusak rides his prose as if taming something wild, giving a sense of Cam's emotional upheaval without losing control of the momentum and pace. Solid characterizations ground the action, with Cam's personality artfully limned in a first-person narrative interspersed with his own writings; clipped staccato language, concrete and minimal, evokes the power and complexity of his yearnings. The relationship between Rube and Cam is the cohesive element in a novel that explores Cam's growing, passionate connections to the world. Readers making their own connections, passionate and otherwise, will revel in Cam's success. JMD
Booklist May 15 2003
In this sequel to Fighting Ruben Wolfe (2001), the Wolfe family has settled into a kind of "okayness." For Cameron's brother Ruben that means "one girl after another, one fight after another." Only Cameron, who's-in adolescence's high season, seems to feel restless and alone as he wanders the streets, pines over uninterested girls, and begins to discover his passion for writing. Then Ruben brings home beautiful Octavia, who, when Ruben predictably dumps her, surprises both brothers by turning to Cameron. Zusak interrupts Cameron's first-person narrative with excerpts from Cameron's writing that, as does much of the book, reads like what it's supposed to be: the words of a talented teenage writer, including some heavy metaphors, self-consciously experimental style, and fresh, inventive images. The authentic emotion behind the words and Cameron's raw experiences are powerful, though, and teens, especially boys, will easily connect with Cameron's intense yearning to define himself within his family and to discover what romance is all about-to explore, as he puts it, "the edges of words, the loyalty of blood, and the music of girls."
(Middle School, High School) Since Cameron and Ruben have quit boxing (Fighting Ruben Wolfe, rev. 3/01), Cam is no longer losing to his older brother in the ring. But he still can't measure up to Rube when it comes to getting a girl. "My brother never really had to say or do anything. He just had to stand somewhere or scratch himself or even trip up a gutter and a girl would like him." Cam, on the other hand, spends his evenings standing silently outside the house of the girl he likes, an action--or inaction--that causes Ruben to observe, "You're a bit of a lonely bastard aren't y'?" But when Ruben callously discards his latest girl--a street performer named Octavia--Cameron begins to forge his first serious relationship with the beguiling harmonica player. This story of first love complicated by a serious case of sibling rivalry lacks the blustering narrative voice of its predecessor. Cam has now taken an interest in writing, and each chapter ends with a sampling of his often overwrought work ("If her soul ever leaks, I want