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WARRIOR ANGEL by Robert Lipsyte

WARRIOR ANGEL

By Robert Lipsyte

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-000496-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

Sonny Bear fights like a zombie, throwing punches as if he’s underwater. He’s the heavyweight champion, but he feels lost, drugged, and hollow. He wins the bout that opens the story with a split decision, hardly looking like a champion, not even sure what he is doing out there. He has run from the Reservation, cynical about the Moscondaga Nation, but only feels accepted by whites because he’s a champ. Now he’s “the Tomahawk Kid, the Natural Man, the Native Son” and faces an existential crisis: “Shove that tired old Redskin crap, I’m not anything anymore. Not Indian, not white. Leave me alone. I’m not anywhere.” In a parallel narrative, Starkey, the self-appointed Warrior Angel with a Mission for the Creator, escapes his group home to save Sonny’s soul and prepare him to defend his title against Floyd (The Wall) Hall. Starkey seems mentally ill but gives Sonny what he needs: a return to Donatelli’s Gym, old friends, and a strict training regimen. In this conclusion to his boxing saga first begun with The Contender over 35 years ago and nearly 10 years since The Chief, Lipsyte demonstrates his sportswriter’s gift of muscular prose and vivid detail. Sonny looks down on the Vegas strip and thinks it looked “like all the crayons in the world melted into a dazzling river.” When Sonny goes out for a run, Starkey follows on bike, “squeaking along a slalom course of garbage and broken bottles and ruptured concrete on the fifteen blocks down to Central Park.” With a swift plot, exciting boxing scenes, the mysterious, unstable character of Starkey, and life lessons drawn from boxing, this will appeal to fans of sports novels and all enthusiasts of good writing regardless of genre. The long wait has been worth it. (Fiction. 12+)