Book cover of Loser, by Jerry Spinelli.
|Genre||Novel, Realistic Fiction|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||218 (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 cockiness, and sometimes clueless enthusiasm. The book is unique among Spinelli's work in that is entirely written in the present tense. The life lesson of Loser is about the human rudeness, the importance of failure, and how any name can be replaced with hero. It was nominated for the 2004-05 Mark Twain Award.
Zinkoff's life begins to take shape once he enters the fourth grade. In the fourth grade, Zinkoff gains a positive reputation for the first time in his life. Mr. Yalowitz, his fourth grade teacher, is the first of his teachers to truly understand Zinkoff's position in life, and as a result, the other students begin to take notice of him as well. But that changes on field day, when Zinkoff's clumsy athleticism loses the competitions for his team. Because of this, his teammates vocally address him as "Loser" for the first time. Even though this takes a toll on his spirit, he soon recovers and is eventually back to his old self, though now more mature (he does not laugh impulsively or scream "Yahoo" as he used to). Once he is in fifth grade, Zinkoff tries to fit in more than he used to. He briefly befriends Hector Binns, but the friendship soon falls apart. He purposely avoids Field Day once it arrives so that he does not let anybody down. When he graduates elementary school, however, he knows that he will miss everything about Elementary school, the good and the bad.
As Zinkoff enters middle school, he begins to dissolve into nothingness. He is not regarded as a loser; he is regarded as nobody. He still has fun with his life, but nobody notices him anymore. Once the school year's first snow arrives, Zinkoff finds out that a toddler in his neighborhood, Claudia, has gone missing. He realizes she ran away and decides to search for her as well. Claudia gets found a few minutes later, but Zinkoff does not notice. In fact, he trudges through the snow for seven hours in search of Claudia, all the while unaware of the state of emergency being lifted. Eventually, he is found, just before freezing, and is brought home. His family is glad to see him not hurt, and praise his heroic efforts.
The story ends with the other kids recognizing the size of Zinkoff's heart, and becoming more accepting of him than ever. They treat him like any other, and Zinkoff finally gets to play football with the other children. Jerry Spinelli teaches a great lesson that any name, such as loser can be replaced with hero.