Author: Markus Zusak
Publisher: Ravensburger Buchverlag
Publication Date: 1999
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction
Ruben Wolf is always thinking of ridiculous schemes that he and his brother, Cameron, never actually carry out. And setting out to rob the dentist is no exception. Cameron is fifteen and usually just goes along with whatever Ruben dreams up. The Underdog is about the things that happen to Cameron that winter: how he fell in love, got into fights, dreamt and survived. Cameron feels pathetic and hopeless, and just wants to find a girl that he will never hurt. As Cameron tries to stop disappointing his family, he wonders if he will ever be able to change.
Reading this book was kind of like seeing a photo of a friend before you met them. This is Markus Zusak’s first novel and part of the Wolf Brothers series. Until recently, it wasn’t available in North America. I was very excited to buy the trilogy when it was released together here, since I loved The Book Thief and I am the Messenger. This book has little plot and is mainly character driven. As Cameron says at the beginning of the novel, nothing much really happened. Despite this, Cameron’s story was still entertaining and often peculiar, in a good day. I never thought I’d read a book where I fell in love with the characters as they fail to rob a dentist, but it happened. Each chapter ends with one of Cameron’s dreams, which were really well written. It was interesting to read this book since you could see the early signs of Zusak’s writing becoming what it will. This book seems to have similar ideas to what we see in I am the Messenger, especially a narrator who is unhappy with his life and who he is. However, Messenger had a distinct and exciting plot. This book didn’t feel as developed as Zusak’s other books, but I liked the raw writing style and the characters. I’ve talked to people who loved The Book Thief but were disappointed by I am the Messenger, and I don’t think that they would enjoy this book. I still enjoyed The Underdog, especially since I liked seeing Zusak in the early stages of being a writer. I think he beautifully captured being a teenager and feeling pathetic and hopeless. Overall, I enjoyed Underdog and being able to see how Markus Zusak’s beginning and how he has grown as a writer.
“I dreamed a whole lot of weird, sick, perverted, sometimes beautiful dreams. And I survived.”