This has been a long time coming - seems ages since I've had a book to review!
Loser, by Jerry Spinelli, is a book I bought on a bit of a whim. Spinelli is one of those authors I look at and think "why haven't I read more of your work?!" Before now, all I had read was the Stargirl series, and I remember how much I loved it. So Loser found its way onto my Kindle.
The book is about a kid called Donald Zinkoff. He's a kid who is inherently "uncool". His handwriting is illegible, he likes to squeal "yahoo!", he wears a 3ft giraffe on his head, he likes winning silver stars for his shirt... and, he's always last. Last in the alphabet, last to be picked for teams, last in races, last in the class to get an A... To those outside of his family, Donald Zinkoff is a loser; in all senses of the word.
We follow Zinkoff as he makes his way through school right up until graduation. We see him naive and oblivious to the way that his fellow students' perception of him changes as they grow, we see him making a strained best-friendship based on mutual loneliness, we see him connect easiest with adults in various stages of isolation more than with kids his own age...
I have to admit that not much happens in this book. I would say it was more of a character study, but there wasn't any character development either. I think there was a message in the last paragraph, but in all honestly I found it confusing and un-affecting, and I think I interpreted it wrong. This was hugely surprising to me, because I felt the message in Stargirl was so well realised - It affected me. I wanted to go out and be a better person. Loser simply left me thinking "well, that was nice. Zinkoff seems like an interesting kid." But at the end of the day, so what?!
Weirdly, I really enjoyed reading the book. Chatting with Orisi B the other day she mentioned that despite disliking a certain book's ending, she very much enjoyed the journey to it - and that totally applies here. I really liked exploring Zinkoff's quirks and especially the relationship between Donald and his father. (Another book with present and un-monstrous parents! YAY!) The chapter in which Donald goes to be a mailman with his dad is lovely. I also enjoyed meeting the characters of Nine Hundred Block, but I do wish their stories had been fully fleshed out. The Waiting man had such a presence, but was never actually a character, and I wanted to know so much more about him!
Having recently read Wonder, I couldn't help but to see large comparisons between the two books - despite a large difference in the central character (August has a facial deformity, Zinkoff is just "different"), Wonder proved to have more of an emotional connection than Loser, though.
Overall, Loser is a book well written, by a brilliant author, but I would recommend Stargirl more.
5/10 for Loser.