cover image Muckers


Sandra Neil Wallace. Knopf, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-375-86754-5

Former ESPN newscaster and Little Joe author Wallace presents an unsettling yet inspiring novel, based on true events, about a racially mixed high-school football team’s last season. Set in the autumn of 1950 in the grim mining town of Hatley, Ariz., the story is narrated by quarterback Felix “Red” O’Sullivan, who carries too many burdens on his slight five-foot-seven frame: grief over his brother Bobby’s death at Iwo Jima five years earlier; sorrow over his mother’s resulting mental deterioration; resentment at his embittered father; and the weight of the “scrappy but undersized” Muckers’ final chance to win the state championship. With the mine nearly barren, Red’s graduating class will be the last for Hatley High. Wallace deftly depicts the atmosphere of an era when segregation—in Hatley, between Mexicans and “Anglos”—was standard, the Korean War had just begun, and anti-communism was on the rise. While football fans will savor the play-by play descriptions, Wallace provides enough emotional drama to create a rich work of historical fiction that will draw in even those without an interest in the sport. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)