Harry is so short he’s nicknamed Hobbit. He’s a ‘walking disaster’, lonely and alone since his dad left. He sees the school psychologist regularly without results. Bullied mercilessly by The Brick and his peers, Harry accepts it all. It is a secret kept from his mum, who, to earn a living, has turned their home into a boarding house for poor transients.
Things seem to go from bad to worse for Harry who wishes for many things to change in his life. His English teacher says that wishes only come true when they are written down.
The class is set an assignment to list their wishes and log the outcomes in a journal. It is through Harry’s journal entries that the story is told. The journal also allows us to connect with Harry’s inner thoughts and feelings.
Harry’s three main wishes out of seven are: to have a friend, to own a dog, and to win the Dog Day Races.
When a new lodger, Jack Ellis, joins the boarding house residents, things start to shift and change internally and externally for Harry. Time spent with Jack listening to the yarns about his dogs and the Australian bush, gives birth to a sense of joy and belonging in Harry.
But are the stories real? And who is Jack Ellis?
Paul Collins is a master storyteller. He creates authentic, lovable characters and weaves them through a complex and mysterious storyline that sweeps the reader up, and makes them a part of it all.
I loved this novel, which is ideal for boys, as much as the outstanding The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler, if not more. It has every element of an exceptional read. The role of Jack Ellis in Harry’s life, his character and voice in particular, are all spectacular. I just couldn’t stop reading until the mind-blowing climax.
Strong themes that stream through the book are family, bullying, and how the power of friendship can influence people’s lives. It also concentrates on the bond between dogs and humans.
Title: Harry Kruize, Born to Lose
Author: Paul Collins
Publisher: Ford Street Publishing, $17.95
Publication Date: March 2017
For ages: 11+
Type: Middle Fiction