After a pummeling defeat, Chuck and his friends really need a win in Huskers, and it isn’t going to come easy.
Chuck and his buddies Chris, Jimmy, Dennis, Dick, Billy, and Virgil take on the other sixth grade boys in a football game to kick off chapter one of Huskers. It’s not a pretty match up. In addition to having better ball security, as well as passing, tackling, and catching skills, the other sixth grade boys are bigger, meaner, and all around more intimidating. Our team of underdogs don’t stand a chance.
The slaughter is bloody, especially when Jack Packer takes things to an all new low and hurts Dennis beyond a normal football injury. The boys trudge home being weighed down by sore muscles and despair over their lot in life. However, when Chuck’s resolve to help his friends find the will to try again kicks in, thanks to a little inspiration from his father, the despair fades. He bravely confronts high school athletes to ask for help, and takes it upon himself to guard against any and everything the other sixth grade boys could throw at them. In addition to all this, he teaches the other boys that they have to work, and work hard, to get anywhere. They start running, tackling, and learning plays to prepare themselves as best they can, embracing a tradition of conquering ‘The Hill’ at the end of their practices. That hill plays as a physical reminder of the gigantic hurdle in front of them, and that with each practice they push through, that hurdle becomes a little more manageable.
‘Huskers’ book review:
Huskers is a book about football, no denying that, but it’s also about not letting someone else’s advantage beat you down before you ever start the game. Chuck and his friends get their asses handed to them in the first chapter of Huskers. They aren’t the big kids, the strong kids, or even the average kids. They’re the underdogs that need to push themselves to become anything more than punching bags, but it isn’t their size that gets them beaten, it’s their lack of will. They let the bigger kids play mind games, and their morale takes bigger hits than any of players could possibly give them.
There are definitely some problematic areas of the novel. After their crushing defeat are a number of chapters about general day to day activities that don’t add much to the story, and the dialogue leaves much to be desired, as normal kids don’t grunt monosyllabically to each other all the time, but if you can look past those shortcomings this novel is chock full of heart.
Chuck and his buddies needed to find the heart to work through their issues and ask the bigger sixth graders for a rematch. They needed to discover in themselves the will to try again and persevere through the taunting and bullying. Once they do that, the magic truly shines. You can feel the hope and pride that pushes these boys and it may leave you with a little more hope yourselves. If Chuck and his team can face down their biggest challenges and maybe even earn a little respect, then surely we all can too.