Klass, David. Losers Take All. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2015.
At Fremont High School, aka “Muscles High”, if you are not an athlete, then you are a nobody. The whole school—and the town of Fremont, New Jersey—is totally obsessed with sports. They even have a whole week at the end of every school year devoted to honoring their athletes.
Jack Logan’s father and two brothers were talented football players, but Jack---well, not so much. In fact, Jack doesn’t even like sports. At the end of his junior year, his seventy-year-old principal dies of a heart attack during the annual “senior run” and is replaced Coach Muhldinger—the football coach. As his first official act as principal, Coach Muhldinger decrees that all seniors must play some kind of sport.
When Jack is roped in to trying out for the football team, he ends up in the hospital, instead. Jack and his girlfriend, Becca, decide to form a “C” level soccer team and ask the school’s part-time Latin teacher, Mr. Percy, to be their coach. A whole group of unathletic seniors join the team with the goal of not winning, but just surviving the season without getting injured. Hilariously, they lose games in fine fashion and become a media sensation via online videos. . The team attracts a whole group of fans that are against violence in sports and bullying. This does nothing to enhance the team’s image with Coach Muhldinger, who seeks revenge on the team for the humiliation it has brought to him.
In Losers Take All, David Klauss has succeeded in capturing the essence of competitive sports, including the negative aspects of violence and bullying that sometimes go along with it. He has tackled these hard issues “head on” and provided a thought-provoking look into how sports culture affects the mood of a school and a town. He has also put a lot of humor into the plot with his descriptions of play-by-play scenes of the soccer team’s games. Readers will find themselves cheering for the mix of misfits that are doing their best to lose every game they play.
The characters are extremely well developed. Principal Muhldinger is your stereotypical coach—all business, gruff, overbearing, and opinionated about non-athletes. Our main character, Jack, who is also the narrator, provides a genuine male teen voice. He thinks he has no athletic ability, but discovers he has a true talent for soccer. Even though it seems like his football-hero dad is not on his side, Klass shows that Tom Logan is a loving and supportive parent.
Sports fans and non-sports fans, alike, as well as readers who enjoy humorous fiction, will enjoy this book. I recommend it for middle school, high school, and public libraries and give it four out of five fleur de lis!