Can enemies become friends?
That’s the question at the heart of THE CONTENDERS, a novel featuring two fifth graders who couldn’t be more different or hate each other more.
Eunice Yang wants 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 wanted. But what she wants even more than her dream bike is to beat Thad Warfield, 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, 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.
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. I especially recommend this book for reluctant 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. — Lizz Zitron, librarian and professor
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 the 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 Muller
What a sweet and uplifting story about learning to understand your enemies. I recommend this for teachers in 3rd through 5th grade classrooms as a way to open up discussions on friendship and compassion. A pitch perfect and timely tale that is certainly about bullying, but also gives young readers a deeper message about the way we all feel like outsiders. — Sandra Evans, author of This is Not a Werewolf Story and high school teacher
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. It was neat to hear about Eunice’s challenges and triumphs, and how they can be so related to what young people are experiencing in their lives. — Patrick Pineda
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. Peg Cheng is a talented storyteller who seems to have taken it upon herself to provide the kind of book we need to grow the next generation to be open-minded and to cultivate strong women. — Noéll Bernard-Kingsley
I really enjoyed this wonderful middle grade novel. Eunice is a highly relatable protagonist. Intelligent, athletic, and empathetic, she also has plenty of flaws that she must learn to overcome throughout the story. Watching her growth as a character was definitely the best part of this middle grade book. All in all, I’d highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for character-driven stories with a timeless story. — Chelsi Nolan, elementary school librarian
Perfect for kids aged 8 to 108, and especially loved by 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.