Eunice Yang wants just two things in life: to win The Contest and to beat Thad Warfield.
Only fifth graders can compete in Soap Lake’s annual Brawn and Brains Contest. Winning first place means Eunice will finally get the bike she’s always dreamt about: the Rainier Cruiser. But what she wants even more than her dream bike is to beat Thad Warfield, supreme dumbhead and her archenemy since first grade.
But this year, The Contest’s hundredth anniversary, the rules change. Now, students have to compete in teams of two. Eunice’s worst nightmare comes true. She’s partnered with—Thad.
Together, Eunice and Thad careen through a year filled with cutthroat competitions, vicious squabbles, tetherball death matches, and visits to the principal’s office.
It’s a close race to the very end, when Eunice discovers that being a contender takes more than just brawn and brains—it takes heart—and there are some things more important than winning.
This is a great coming of age story that anyone can enjoy. I got sucked in and couldn’t put it down. You can see how the main character, Eunice, grows over the course of a year and how her ability to get along with other people develops. She is a very relatable character and I was rooting for her the whole time. — Matthew
The Contenders by Peg Cheng is the kind of story I sift through libraries to find. Cheng’s portrayal of girls, people of color, single-parent and lower-income families, recluse introverts, and the kids who act out in class are positive and fair-minded–encouraging young readers to really get to know others and to look beyond the perceptible, seemingly insurmountable, differences between themselves and those around them. — Noell
What an awesome book. I gave this book to my ten year-old niece, after checking out the synopsis and liking what I read about the story’s themes. To my complete surprise, my niece finished the book quickly, and was very excited to tell me about Eunice’s story. — Patrick
THE CONTENDERS is the middle grade novel you’ve been waiting for: diverse characters who are funny and real. Explores a variety of issues ranging from racism to disability in a humorous book that will appeal to a variety of readers. Eunice and her friend and family feel so real–they are flawed, kind, complex, a little mean at times, and just wanting to find their place in the world. Highly recommended for every middle school collection. — E.S.