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Muckers by Sandra Neil Wallace
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Felix O'Sullivan's world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of closing, threatening to shutter the entire town and his high school with it. But Red's got his own burdens to bear: his older brother Bobby, died in the war and he's been struggling to follow in his footsteps ever since. That means assuming Bobbys old position as quarterback and leading the last ever Muckers team to the championship. But the only way for the hardscrabble Muckers to win State is to go undefeated and tackle their biggest rival, Phoenix United, which would be something of a miracle. Luckily miracles can happen all the time on the field. In the end the micles work and they make it the championshap. All of them try their hardest. Red/Felix
  AndrewC.BG3 | Mar 21, 2017 |
There are two things that matter to the town of Hatley, Arizona: mining and football. And that's about it. In 1950, when the copper veins—the town's largest source of labor—begin to dry up and threaten to shut down not only the mine, but also the entire town, the future seems bleak with only the smallest feather of hope remaining: Hatley High School's football team's final season.

Set in the grim, desperate backdrop of the Korean War during the second Communist scare, Muckers is a story about the team that had all odds against them, but still found a way to run and fight and survive through the muck—and emerge not only alive, but also triumphant. This is a football story, yes, but it's also a war story, as well as a family story, a love story, a personal story—a very real story.

Red O'Sullivan is no stranger to wartime's tragic effects; the last war that swept the globe changed everything in his life, and this new one is about to do the same. As quarterback, he has a sense of dismay knowing his team's the smallest, scrawniest in Arizona, but it's certainly not the weakest—and that's what keeps him holding on, because it may be the only thing Hatley has left. The last time the town saw something so hopeful was when Red's older brother, Bobby, brought home the Northern title nine years back. Now, everyone's counting on Red to redeem the collapsing town, and this just may be his last shot.

This book was really slow-paced, which had me skimming a lot; I feel it wouldn't hold the attention of younger readers well. However, I'm a huge fan of sports novels and so I refused to give in too easily, and in the end, I am so, so glad I did.

Muckers combines Red's frank, but heartbreakingly tenacious narrative with local newspaper clippings of the time, to expose the untold, valiant history of the real-life Jerome Muckers. Wallace gives careful, stimulating attention to period detail and breathes life into the inspired fictional town of Hatley. There are so many different issues within this book that she handles well, including those on politics, race, the real meaning of family, teamwork, and never giving up; Muckers could really teach our middle and high schoolers about succeeding in even the most disadvantageous of circumstances, just by persevering.

I was particularly intrigued by the origins of this novel, explained beautifully in the author's note. This football team literally had nothing left for them, but they fought hard to earn the only type of victory they could reach. The civil rights issues are interesting, as well; while most American high schools at this time were segregated, Jerome, and Hatley, were rare in that it was inhabited by both caucasians and Mexican-Americans. However, even though they all lived together, the racial tensions are still clearly prevalent, and the way the town manages to overcome them—even if only for the sake of the football team—is glittering, exultant.

Pros: Raw; hits exactly the right notes // Moving story // Captures the genuine hopes and worries and fears of the age // Vibrant, distinct characters // Forbidden romance sidestory // Detailed, suspenseful sports fiction // Preserves the amazing Muckers football team in literature

Cons: On the slow side // The writing style itself isn't particularly impressive

Verdict: Friday Night Lights meets Remember the Titans in this highly-charged, visceral young adult novel that has both spirit and soul. Harrowing, eye-opening, and tenderly honest, Muckers masterfully recounts an inspiring story about how one resilient high school football team finds victory through enduring the tragic, unforgiving demands of war and the injustices of racial divide. Sandra Neil Wallace did a marvelous thing by digging up the forgotten letters and faded newspapers that made up this previously overlooked narrative, and bringing it to light. This is the kind of story that deserves a special spot in American football history. Fortunately, through this novel, the Hatley Muckers get the chance to prove themselves, while the real-life Jerome Muckers, in their blazing glory, get the chance to be remembered.

Rating: 8 out of 10 hearts (4 stars): An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended.

Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Random House and TLC!). ( )
  stephanieloves | Nov 20, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375867546, Hardcover)

Former ESPN sportscaster Sandra Neil Wallace (wife to Knopf author Rich Wallace) makes her young adult novel debut with a historical fiction story that is equal partsHoosiers and October Sky. Felix O'Sullivan's world is crumbling around him: the mine that employs most of town is on the brink of closing, threatening to shutter the entire town. And Felix, or Red, after his fire-colored hair, will be one of 24 students in the final graduating class of his local high school. But Red's got his own burdens to bear: his older brother, Bobby, died in the war, and he's been struggling to follow in his footsteps ever since. That means assuming Bobby's old position as quarterback, and leading the last-ever Muckers team to the championship. Maybe then his angry, broken-hearted father will acknowledge him, and they'll be able to put Bobby's death behind them. 

But the only way for the hardscrabble Muckers team to win State is to go undefeated, and tackle their biggest rival, Phoenix United, which would be something of a miracle. Luckily, miracles can happen all the time on the field. Fans of Friday Night Lights and Tim Tharp's Knights of the Hill Country will take to this enthralling story of a town rallying together to turn a tragedy into a triumph. 

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:51 -0400)

"Felix O'Sullivan, standing in the shadow of his dead brother, an angry, distant father, and racial tension, must lead the last-ever Muckers high school football team to the state championship before a mine closing shuts down his entire town"--

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