Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher [Book Review]



 amazon ID: jabberjaw0c-20


Annie Boots is a 17-year-old high school student who is living two lives. She has her life with her foster family, the Howards and their son Marvin, and then there’s her life of sneaking around to see her biological mother and half-sister Shelia. To accomplish seeing her bio family Annie uses the sports she competes in during the summer as their secret rendezvous sites. It’s not long until Annie learns that Pop Howard has known all long of these meetings. But this is the least of Annie’s worries.

As mentioned, Annie plays in summer sports, and the book opens with her sport of choice being basketball. But right now, her team is in the loser’s bracket.

Loser Bracket is defined as such

The first-round winners proceed into the W bracket and the losers proceed into the L bracket. The bracket is conducted in the same manner as a single-elimination tournament, except that the losers of each round “drop down” into the L bracket(Source google.com)

This can also be said of Annie’s place in her bio family.


Annie has been in foster care since she was in the single-digit age but was lucky enough to be placed with the Howards. Her sister, Shelia, wasn’t so lucky. Shelia wasn’t lucky in the families she was placed in nor the number of time she had to move. Their mother, Nancy, is a drug-addict and shoplifter who choose drugs over her daughters. Shelia is the apple that didn’t fall far from the tree. Annie, on the other hand, is the apple that fell from the tree, but somehow was able to roll away.

Shelia has a five-year-old son named Frankie who is suffering the same fate Shelia did with regards to his mother choosing drugs over him. However, Frankie, thus far, has not ended up in the system and if Annie has anything to do with it, he won’t.


When Annie switches to swimming (her choices of sports are more of a coping mechanism than a choice) it’s during one of the swim meets that Frankie disappears during a chaotic scene caused by her mother Nancy and sister Shelia. Through the search for Frankie we are introduced to Walter, Nancy’s latest boyfriend, and according to Annie, the most decent one.


The books open with Annie at one of the basketball games and the loser bracket her team is part of, mostly because of her. We are introduced to three of her friends Hannah, Mariah, and Leah, but it’s Leah who is seen throughout the book. Marvin, the Howards biological son, age 13, is also part of Annie’s life. He’s a well-adjusted kid who prefers books to sports. Because of this, his father, Pop Howard, thinks his son might be gay. As Marvin puts it when it comes to Annie, “she’s the son he father wished Marvin was.” We are privy to Annie’s life through the eyes of Annie, which is one thing I loved about the book. I enjoy books written in the first person for it helps me experience what the protagonist is experiencing. When it comes to Annie’s counseling sessions, it is seen through the eyes of Emily.

After Frankie’s disappearance, Annie begins to spiral more out of control. Throughout the book, we wonder if the parachute will open or not for Annie.

We’re taken on a journey of Annie Boot’s life beginning with the summer of her soon-to-be-senior. Along the way, we’re introduced to a cast of characters. These characters, which include her foster brother Marvin and her friend Leah.


Chris Crutcher has a way of finding the teenage voice in his stories. And as a male who writes from a female’s perspective on things, he does a great job. He doesn’t sugar coat anything. Chris makes us think about our own lives, regardless if we are teenagers ourselves or into our adulthood thinking about our teenage years because of this story.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone along with Athletic Shorts which is a compilation of short stories by Chris Crutcher. Athletic Shorts was my first introduction to Crutcher’s work via an email I received on recommended reading. Since reading that book I’ve become a fan. I plan on reading other books by Chris but was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of Losers Bracket before it’s release on 3 April 2018.

You may pre-order Losers Bracket by clicking on the book’s title Losers Bracket.

Losers Bracket is 256 pages published by Greenwillow Books, part of Haper Collins / pubished date 3 April 2018

I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.

The Other New Girl [Book Review]


Susannah Greenwood and Daria McQueen haven’t seen each other in over 45 years, since their days at Foxhall Co-Ed Prep School (boarding school). Daria was Queen Bee while Susannah was the new girl trying to fit in. Luckily for Susannah, she was taken in by Daria and her friends, Fath, Brady, and Jan.  But there was another new girl at school named Molly Grimes, also known as Moll. Moll was an awkward girl who didn’t fit in anywhere and has been that way her whole life. Susannah or Susie, for short, does her best to befriend Moll, even to the chagrin of Daria and the other girls. Then there’s Miss Bleaker, the dean of students. Susie’s desire to befriend Moll as well as help her impress a boy leads to a tragedy no one saw coming and the effects of that tragedy stay with everyone involved long after school ends.


The Other New Girl, told through the eyes of Susie, explores one year of Susie’s life at the Quaker prep school and the lives of those she connected with either directly or indirectly. Although set from 1959-1960, it will still bring back memories of being 15 years old and thinking the issue you had then were major. For Susie one particular issue was major, but she didn’t let it define her, but she never forgot about it either.  This book also explores young men and the draft along with social issues of the time.


I found The Other New Girl to be an easy read by the mere fact it’s told in first person format. Gschwandtner does a great job of making you feel like you are with Susie every step of the way. The writing is not forced and the stories flow with ease. This book reminded me of Judy Blume’s In The Unlikely Event as we are witness to the trials and tribulations of being young and how it affects the lives of those much later in life.

On Goodreads, I gave The Other New Girl five stars. I highly recommend this book to everyone. And while you’re at it, pick up In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

The Other New Girl by LB Gschwandtner
Published 26 September 2017 by She Writes Press

Best books of 2017

Chris Curtcher’s Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories [Book Review]


Now that I’m older, I look back on school years gone by and growing up/coming of age. As with all adults, or most, we think “If only I knew then what I know now.” As youngsters we worried about who liked us and who didn’t like us. I’m not referring to the romantic like. The simplest things in life made us think it will either ruin us for life or make us heroes.


I wish I could redo a lot of things, one of them being school. Mostly high school. I wasn’t a good student for I hated school. However, it was the best year of my life and the worst. Its funny to think that my only job back then was to go to school and yet I complained, as most kids do. My job today is going to work, paying bills, getting the car fixed, keeping the house up and on and on and on.


This is what draws me to young adult books, especially those by Judy Blume. It allows me to escape from the real world and relive those days of junior high and high school. This is also why I enjoyed reading Robert Cormier books. Of all the Judy Blume books my favorite is Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret (1970). I read the book around 2010 or 2011. Yes, I was well into my adult years by then. But it took me back to Margaret’s school age years.

And this why I enjoyed Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher. High school is the them in these collective short stories and what we deemed important during that time. You don’t have to be a jock to be able to relate to the stories or the people. You just have to have gone to high school.


Angus is the fat kid in school who has to unconventional families (for that time – 1984) and has been voted Home Coming King. He knows it was done as a joke, but soon the joke is on everyone else. However, the journey Angus and us take to get that point hits home.

Johnny has a father who is very controlling and extremely hard on Johnny. Johnny is waiting for the day he can seek revenge on his father and that day arrives, but will revenge be as sweet as he thinks?

Petey is either you or someone you knew in school. He wants to do what’s right, but has a tug of war with himself on what that is. If he pleases this person, then this might happen. If he please someone else, then that might happen. Petey learns you can’t please everyone and that’s OK. He’s willing to take one for the team…Team Petey.

Lionel lost his parents in a boating accident at age 14. He’s been on his own since then as well. Lionel is struggling with the anger he’s held inside for the one person who caused his parents death. Anger with a mixture of high school and the future ahead of you is bad cocktail. Or is it?

These are some of the stories in the book that will take you back to your younger days and school.

Before each story, Crutcher gives a background on where the stories came from which gives even more life to them.


I was going to complain about the use of the N word in the story titled Telephone Man but realized I would be a big hypocrite if I did so. Why? Well because I’ve written a historical fiction novel (still in the works ) about the concentration camps and my book is filled with degrading words the Nazis (and some Germans) would call Jews. Just be forewarned, the story is filled with the N word and not so nice things regarding Asians and anyone else Telephone Man has been taught to hate.


This is why I read YA books, to stay young, relive the old days and laugh at myself on how I thought things back then were so serious. Now-a-days, they are trivial. Hind sight is 20/20 but growing old gives you x-ray vision into the past.

Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories
Author: Chris Crutcher
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (1990); reprinted November 5, 2002
Pages: 208
Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks