Robert Lipsyte's novel The Contender is the story of seventeen-year-old Alfred Brooks, an orphan adrift after he drops out of high school. Now living in Harlem with his Aunt Pearl and nieces, Alfred responds to the self-destructiveness of his friend James, and the brutality of the thuggish Major and Hollis, by determining to make something of himself. He joins Donatelli's Gym, where his commitment to training gives him strength and resolve. Alfred is temporarily derailed by spending time with bad company, but pulls himself together, returning to the gym and a rigorous schedule. Alfred wins a few boxing matches and gains the respect of the community, but as his mentor Mr. Donatelli says, he doesn't have the killer instinct that professional boxers need. But Alfred takes part in one last fight, losing by decision, but gaining his own self-respect. He comes to the aid of his old friend James, promising to help him fight drug addiction and gain a decent place in the world. Teen readers will respect and applaud Lipstye’s Alfred for his integrity and determination.