Loser (novel)

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Loser by Jerri Spinelli (cover).jpg
Book cover of Loser, by Jerry Spinelli.
AuthorJerry Spinelli
CountryUnited States
GenreNovel, Realistic Fiction
PublisherHarper Collins
Publication date
July 29, 2003
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages218 (first edition hardcover)

Loser is a coming of age young adult novel first published in 2002 by American author Jerry Spinelli. It details the growth of Donald Zinkoff, who is branded a "loser" by his classmates due to his clumsiness, poor performance in school and athletics, and sometimes clueless enthusiasm. The book is unique among Spinelli's work in that it is written entirely in the present tense. It was nominated for the 2005-06 Mark Twain Award.[1]


The novel follows the protagonist, Donald Zinkoff, through his early life. When Zinkoff enters the first grade, his sloppiness and excessive enthusiasm are immediately noted by his teacher, Miss Meeks. Despite Zinkoff’s quirks, Miss Meeks works to instill confidence in him. Zinkoff’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Biswell, is more hostile towards him, and regularly scolds him for his lack of discipline. While in the second grade, Zinkoff also bonds with his father by following him on his mail route.

In the fourth grade, Zinkoff estranges himself from the majority of his peers when his clumsiness causes his team to lose on Field Day. He initially struggles with being taunted and referred to as a "loser" by his classmates. Though he does eventually recover his old spirit, he develops a new maturity and becomes more self-conscious about his enthusiastic behavior. Once he is in fifth grade, Zinkoff makes a much more active effort to fit in. He briefly befriends one of his classmates, Hector Binns, but the friendship soon falls apart. He purposely avoids Field Day once it arrives, fearing that he will once again let his team down, and instead chooses to spend the day with an old woman he knows from his father’s mail route.

When Zinkoff initially enters middle school, he goes largely unnoticed by his classmates. After the school year’s first snow, Zinkoff discovers that a toddler in his neighborhood, Claudia, has gone missing. Believing that she ran away, he decides to search for her. Though Claudia is found a few minutes later, Zinkoff does not notice and spends seven hours in the snow searching for Claudia. Eventually, he is found and brought home. The incident with Claudia gains Zinkoff some notoriety in middle school, and the novel closes with him being invited to play football with the other boys in the grade for the first time.