Why I Fight is realistic fiction about a troubled teen. Wyatt is 12 ½ years old at the beginning of the story, and something has happened at home. The reader understands that his parents have not been the best parents, but we don’t get any specifics about this relationship until the end of the book.
So, his Uncle Spade picks him up, and he spends the next several years with Spade, who “buys and sells things.” He has a woman in every city, so Spade and Wyatt spend time in each of these towns and these women are the only motherly figures that Wyatt knows.
Spade doesn’t talk much. I wouldn’t say he and Wyatt have a real relationship. It seems as though they just survive. When Spade figures out that Wyatt is big and strong and can defend himself, Spade decides that Wyatt should train to be a fighter. Not a boxer that wears gloves and mouth protection, but a street fighter who makes money from wagering on the fights. Wyatt becomes very a successful fighter, and he and Spade make a lot of money. Things fall apart at the end of the book and big changes are made in Wyatt’s life, but I’ll let you read that for yourself.
I had some problems with this book. Oaks’ descriptions are very sparse and the relationships are underdeveloped. There’s a scene about Wyatt’s cruelty to animals, but it just didn’t connect to the rest of the story. Wyatt just does whatever Spade wants—it’s like he has no opinion about anything. He has no personality, and therefore, I didn’t really care about him.
This would definitely be a book for boys. But I would have a hard time recommending it to a reluctant reader. I just don’t think it has that gripping quality necessary for that type of reader. It is page 87 before any mention of fighting – and the book is only 228 pages long. There’s a lot of Spade and Wyatt driving around visiting, and if I got bored with it, I can’t help but think most teens will give up before anything even slightly exciting happens. I would recommend this to avid readers who are interested in troubled teens trying to overcome the odds.
I’ve posted about Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln High School Book Award previously. This book is one of the 2012 nominated titles, and that’s why I read it.
Published by Atheneum Books, 2009
Copy obtained from the library
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