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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

TBC: Undergrounders

Since it's Wednesday, it's time for another review of a book that I found very interesting for its dark overtones. As you may be aware, HBIC is working on a summer project that is all about hockey literature. We knocked off Hockey Dad last week, and this week will feature Undergrounders, written by David Skuy and published by Scholastic Canada. Mr. Skuy has had other books featured on Teebz's Book Club, and I was expecting another lively story like his previous works, but Undergrounders caught me off-guard as Mr. Skuy examines a topic that goes completely away from his previous stories. While the topic seemed a little odd to tackle, Mr. Skuy does another magnificent job in writing an excellent books for adolescent readers, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book once I finished reading it.

From the Charlie Joyce website, "David Skuy is a lawyer, recreational hockey player, and author of the Charlie Joyce Hockey Series. A popular speaker and advocate for the reading and writing skills of school-age children, he has crafted a series of books designed to capture the imagery, the sounds, the conflicts, and the achievements that typify a young boy’s life, be it in the school yard or in the hockey rink". As you may remember, Charlie Joyce was the main character in Mr. Skuy's Game Time series of books that included Off The Crossbar, Rebel Power Play, and Making The Cut.

Undergrounders centers around a boy by the name of Jonathan who also has the nickname of "Mouse". Jonathan is a different kid from the beginning of the story: his mother has died, and her boyfriend left him high dry, forcing Jonathan to the streets to survive. Jonathan meets up with another group of street kids called the "Undergrounders" who live in an abandoned building behind the train station. They compete against the "Streeters" - kids who live exclusively on the street - and try to earn enough money by begging for money from the "Reggies" - regular people.

Just as a note, I started reading "Reggies" as an actual person's name, like the Archie character "Reggie". It took me a few chapters to finally read it as being short for "regulars" - and I felt a little less smarter than I normally do. I just wanted to point this out for those of you who may pick up this book since it threw me for a loop for the first few chapters.

Jonathan eventually gets into hockey by doing only what he knows best: stealing. On a very cold night where he couldn't pay for rent at the Underground, Jonathan found a screen door open a crack behind a row of stores. He was surprised to find the door inside open as well, and he soon found himself surrounded by hockey equipment! He realized he was in Baxter's, a sporting goods store, and he decided to make the most of it by taking skates, a stick, a jersey, and some hockey gloves. Tomorrow, he would find himself on the ice at the local rink!

While skating the next day, Jonathan runs into some Reggies who were playing a game in the other end of the rink. They noticed Jonathan, and wanted to know what team he played for and where he went to school. Jonathan had been warned by some of the other Undergrounders not to talk to Reggies and especially to not trust them, but he couldn't help wanting to play on a team. Could these Reggies help Jonathan to scratch the itch he had of wanting to play organized hockey again?

Jonathan knew he had bigger things to worry about than hockey. After all, he needed to pay rent at the Underground and find a way to get some food and money. And he didn't need to worry about a bunch of Reggies.

The most important thing was to eat. I hadn't had a thing since yesterday before the game. Funny how important it had been, and now I couldn't care less — I had way bigger problems than playing hockey with a bunch of idiots. I needed to hawk some money real bad.
There's no denying that Mr. Skuy examines a very touchy subject in homelessness in Undergrounders, but he does it in a very creative way where you feel sympathy for Jonathan in his struggles. While the dark overtones are certainly present, Mr. Skuy doesn't shy away from presenting the challenges that a number of homeless people face when it comes to survival on the streets. The fact that he looks at this issue through the eyes of an adolescent in Undergrounders makes the story that much more real. While there are hints of this story possibly having a happy ending, you aren't sure what path Jonathan will follow until the very end. Because of this, Undergrounders turned out to be a very enjoyable book, and it certainly deserves Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval!

The 194-page story is an enjoyable read, and I highly recommend this book to young readers. The story is easy to read, and it should really open the eyes of the reader to some of the challenges that a homeless young man faces on top of some of the challenges that teens face already. Mr. Skuy does an excellent job in this book, and it should be added to your book collection, especially if you enjoyed the Game Time series that he penned!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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