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Why I Fight

Why I Fight

4.2 14
by J. Adams Oaks

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Wyatt Reaves takes the seat next to you, bloodied and soaking wet, and he is a big-fisted beast. Tell him to stretch out like an X across asphalt and you've got a parking space. But Wyatt's been taking it lying down for too long, and he is NOT happy.

Since he turned twelve and a half, he's been living with his uncle, a traveling salesman of


Wyatt Reaves takes the seat next to you, bloodied and soaking wet, and he is a big-fisted beast. Tell him to stretch out like an X across asphalt and you've got a parking space. But Wyatt's been taking it lying down for too long, and he is NOT happy.

Since he turned twelve and a half, he's been living with his uncle, a traveling salesman of mysterious agenda and questionable intent. Soon, Uncle Spade sees the potential in "kiddo" to earn cash. And that's enough to keep the boy around for nearly six years.

But what life does Wyatt deserve? Alcohol? Drugs? Bare-fisted fights? Tattoos? No friends? No role models? Living in a car?
If you're brave enough to stay and listen, you'll hear an astounding story. It's not a pretty road Wyatt has traveled, but growing up rarely is.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Amy Fiske
On his half birthday, twelve-year-old Wyatt finds himself homeless and in a shelter, no shoes on his feet, and his parents screaming threats at him through the door of a social worker's office. His Uncle Spade shows up like some cool guardian angel with a muscle car and whisks him off to a life of adventure on the road. Spade is a traveling salesman of dubious moral character, selling merchandise of questionable provenance. He is woefully unprepared to meet the developmental needs of a child, yet he is a considerable step up from Wyatt's birth parents. Spade is a hustler and soon learns how to exploit Wyatt, turning him into a successful bare-knuckle fighter. Together they crisscross the country like characters in a violent, dysfunctional-family/buddy film. Wyatt keeps fighting and winning, and he tries to raise himself, with occasional input from one of his uncle's "girlfriends." Using first-person narrative and the fractured grammar of an undereducated teen, Oaks puts readers inside Wyatt's head. He is a troubled youth being raised by little better than wolves. The fighting is a fairly obvious metaphor for Wyatt's hardscrabble journey from victim to victor but will engage male readers. The story succeeds because of Wyatt's voice, capturing all his vulnerable, messy humanity. This novel is a tough-guy's coming-of-age story, and its brief length will likely appeal to reluctant readers. Librarians should be aware that the book references violence, drugs, and alcohol and includes a scene in a Gentleman's Club. Reviewer: Amy Fiske
Children's Literature - Anita Barnes Lowen
"Rescued" by his uncle from the homeless shelter and his at-best-useless parents, Wyatt hits the road with Uncle Spade, a womanizing, hard-drinking, sleazy traveling salesman. For six years now he has been living in a car or sometimes with one of Spade's many women friends. He is crisscrossing the country with no time for friends or school. Maybe Spade has kept Wyatt around for so long as a favor for his dad. Maybe he has kept Wyatt around because he needed him. Maybe—and this is for sure—he has kept Wyatt around because as a bare-knuckle fighter Wyatt's earned him money. It has been a long, ugly ride but now Wyatt is on his own—on his own for the first time. "And I walked until I got tired, then I decided to catch this bus and ran into you. Think I'll sleep now. I'm tired of telling, of thinking so hard. And when I wake up, I'll try to figure all this out. And you know what? I'm okay with that." Told in first-person narrative in the authentic voice of a vulnerable (for all his size and strength) teen, this a story that will pull in even the most reluctant male reader. Includes drug and alcohol use, violence (cleaning fish, cruelly killing tadpoles and smashing an injured bird) as well as bloody bare-knuckle fights and a party in a strip club. Definitely a page turner for teen boys. Recommended. Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–Wyatt Reaves opens his soul to an unnamed stranger on a bus taking him away from his bleak past and negligent parents, Fever and Ma. When he was 12, he burned down his family home. For the next five years, he is taken on a circuitous road trip by Uncle Spade, Fever’s brother, an unscrupulous, hard-drinking traveling salesman with girlfriends in several locales. Stopping in Arkansas, Wyatt makes friends with Clark, a small, bespectacled boy. Together they invent a game of cruelty to polliwogs, but soon the beat-up Chevy is back on the road heading wherever Spade’s shady deals take them. Wyatt’s height and developing musculature belie the fearful, lost child inside, who is unable to cry. His thwarted emotions coalesce into an intense rage that is often violent and out of control. Spade eagerly becomes Wyatt’s manager, coaching him, sending him on long beer runs, and collecting the cold cash flowing from Wyatt’s dominance as a fist-fighter. They stop to visit one of Spade’s girlfriends, whose kindness touches Wyatt, but things go badly when Spade batters her on her front lawn, and Wyatt begins to question his own sanity when he feels a compulsion to go and kill his one friend, Clark. He demands to return to Fever and Ma, a move that only confirms the harm and hurt of a family culture laced with vulgarity, mockery, and insults. Characterizations are strong in this searing, yet affirming first novel of a young man determined to define himself and make a new life.–Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Kirkus Reviews
Wyatt Reaves, 12 years old at the beginning of this troubling story, relates his teen years, spent manipulated by an adult who lacks a moral compass. From the novel's beginning and for the next six years, he is the unlikely companion of his Uncle Spade, a grifter, womanizer and salesman with an eye for a quick buck. Wyatt, slow on the uptake, has trouble remembering what day it is but always knows the month and year. He grows into a huge physical presence, but is emotionally just a kid. What he can do is fight ferociously if insulted, comparing himself to the Incredible Hulk. Spade and Wyatt hit the road, collecting cash bets while promoting Wyatt as a bare-knuckle boxer. Wyatt tells readers he's "only killed 3 times in my life." Dialogue without quotation marks gives this story a movie-script feel and pulls readers into Wyatt's confusion. Disturbing scenes of cleaning fish, killing tadpoles and violent brawls pitted against adults mark this work suitable for male reluctant readers who lean toward bloody violence. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
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770L (what's this?)
File size:
380 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt



I REALLY hate it. People been calling me that way too long. Fever and Ma and Uncle Spade all call me kiddo, and it makes me crazy. See how I ain't smiling? People who know me, know that means trouble. Oh man. Look at me, all wet and shaking and messed up -- JEEZ, and blood on my fist. I ain't a good guy. Even my own ma says that. I just left her and Fever again, but I ain't never going back.

Gosh, my knuckles hurt. Look, I can't barely make a fist. I'm used to the pain, but this hurts different. I been bare-fist fighting a long time now and I know how to keep from busting my bones or shattering my wrist. Learned the hard way. I've cracked a bunch of ribs and fractured my eye socket in a few spots. Can't count how many times my nose has been snapped. But believe me, I done some damage too, sent guys to the hospital a bunch. I was real good at winning. So what I'm saying is, I don't care that my fist hurts. What's peeving me is this dried blood on my knuckles. Listen, soon I'm going to need some ice for this swelling.

See, Fever and me, we'd got this parking lot together. We planned it and bought it and built it together, him and me. Used most of my leftover fight money. It was a big deal, us two working together after me being away almost six years. And tonight was opening night, but junk went wrong. This is Fever's blood on my knuckles. He got me so peeved I popped him in the face. I usually got better control than that. I gotta calm down now. Take a deep breath.

What happened was, back on my twelve-and-a-half birthday, we was suddenly homeless and got put in the Downtown City Shelter. I didn't got no shoes and my feet were real cold and real dirty, so this super-nice social-worker lady, she tried to find me sneakers that'd fit, which ain't easy. Me being already six foot tall with my feet as big then as they are now. I rubbed them while I waited, locked in that old lady's office, listening to Ma stomp around outside the door and wail about how she wanted to kill herself. Fever hollered too. Pounded on the door, saying, I KNOW YOU'RE IN THERE, WYATT! Made me smile, knowing they were finally thinking about me. Fever hollered at all the city workers how he wanted to kill me. Those workers gave them both pills to quiet down, then put them in locked rooms. Later, even though I still didn't got no shoes, I took some of those pills too. And when I woke up, there my uncle was, kneeling by my cot, whispering:

-- Come on, kiddo, let's get you out of here. You're coming with me.

Copyright © 2009 by Jeffrey Adams Oaks

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Why I Fight 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Q-Adams More than 1 year ago
It is a book adults would not choose to read without a recommendation from a trusted friend. Read it, you will not be sorry! The writing will carry your interest and you will find points to ponder. If you are a teen, you will recognize Wyatt and his feelings.
S_Lauren More than 1 year ago
The story is uniquely told and Oaks' style of writing creates indelible charaters. Though it interweaves street boxing through the story this book is really about the interesting characters that come and go through out the narrators life. This is a great read for teens and adults!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I usually dont like to read but this book was a really good book. I enjoyed every bit of reading it. Once i started reading I couldnt stop is hooked me as soon as I started reading it. I really liked how the author used the words the same why he talked and it gave more intrest to the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book it was great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a compeling fast book about a biys growing up with his uncle and its jst overall a great and i recommend it to everyone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a excellent book
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