The Challenge CommonLit Answer Key 2023 [FREE Access]

In this session, we will be bringing you the updated answers for CommonLit The Challenge topic.

The Challenge CommonLit Answer Key

Let us first read The Challenge passage and will answer at the end.

The Challenge
Gary Soto is an American poet, novelist, and memoirist. In this short story, a boy tries to impress a new girl at his school. As you read, take notes on how José feels about Estela.

For three weeks José tried to get the attention of Estela, the new girl at his middle school. She’s cute, he said to himself when he first saw her in the cafeteria, unloading her lunch of two sandwiches, potato chips, a piece of cake wrapped in waxed paper, and boxed juice from a brown paper bag. “Man, can she grub!”

On the way home from school he walked through the alleys of his town, Fresno, kicking cans. He was lost in a dream, trying to figure out a way to make Estela notice him. He thought of tripping in front of her while she was leaving her math class, but he had already tried that with a girl in sixth grade. All he did was rip his pants and bruise his knee, which kept him from playing in the championship soccer game. And that girl had just stepped over him as he lay on the ground, the shame of rejection reddening his face.

He thought of going up to Estela and saying, in his best James Bond voice, “Camacho. José Camacho, at your service.” He imagined she would say, “Right-o,” and together they would go off and talk in code.

He even tried doing his homework. Estela was in his history class, and so he knew she was as bright as a cop’s flashlight shining in your face. While they were studying Egypt, José amazed the teacher, Mrs. Flores, when he scored twenty out of twenty on a quiz — and then eighteen out of twenty when she retested him the same day because she thought that he had cheated.

”Mrs. Flores, I studied hard — ide veras!1 You can call my mom,” he argued, his feelings hurt. And he had studied, so much that his mother had asked, “¿Qué pasó? What’s wrong?”

“I’m going to start studying,” he’d answered.

His mother bought him a lamp because she didn’t want him to strain his eyes. She even fixed him hot chocolate and watched her son learn about the Egyptian god Osiris, about papyrus and mummification. The mummies had scared her so much that she had heated up a second cup of chocolate to soothe herself.

But when the quizzes had been returned and José bragged, “Another A-plus,” Estela didn’t turn her head and ask, “Who’s that brilliant boy?” She just stuffed her quiz into her backpack and left the classroom, leaving José behind to retake the test.

One weekend he had wiped out while riding his bike, popping up over curbs with his eyes closed. He somersaulted over his handlebars and saw a flash of shooting stars as he felt the slap of his skin against the asphalt. Blood rushed from his nostrils like twin rivers. He bicycled home, his blood-darkened shirt pressed to his nose. When he examined his face in the mirror, he saw that he had a scrape on his chin, and he liked that. He thought Estela might pity him. In history class, she would cry,

“Oh, what happened?” and then he would talk nonsense about a fight with three.

But Estela had been absent the Monday and Tuesday after his mishap. By the time she returned on Wednesday his chin had nearly healed.

José figured out another way to get to know her. He had noticed the grimy, sweat-blackened handle of a racket poking out of her backpack. He snapped his fingers and said to himself, “Racquetball. I’ll challenge her to a game.” He approached her during lunch. She was reading from her science book and biting into her second sandwich, which was thick with slabs of meat, cheese, and a blood-red tomato. “Hi,” José said, sitting across the table from her. “How do you like our school?”

Estela swallowed, cleared her throat, drank from her milk carton until it collapsed, and said, “It’s OK. But the hot water doesn’t work in the girls’ showers.”

“It doesn’t work in ours either,” he remarked. Trying to push the conversation along, he continued, “Where are you from?”

“San Diego,” she said. She took another monstrous bite of her sandwich, which amazed José and made him think of his father, a carpenter, who could eat more than anyone José knew.

José, eager to connect, took a deep breath and said, “I see that you play racquetball. You wanna play a game?”

“Are you good?” Estela asked flatly. She picked up a slice of tomato that had slid out of her sandwich.

“Pretty good,” he said without thinking as he slipped into a lie. “I won a couple of tournaments.”

He watched as the tomato slice slithered down Estela’s throat. She wiped her mouth and said, “Sure.

How about after school on Friday.”

“That’s tomorrow,” José said. “That’s right. Today’s Thursday and tomorrow’s Friday.” She flattened the empty milk carton with her fist, slapped her science book closed, and hurled the carton and her balled-up lunch bag at the plastic-lined garbage can. “What’s your name?”

”Camacho. José Camacho.”
“I’m Estela. My friends call me Stinger.”


“Yeah, Stinger. I’ll meet you at the courts at 3:45.” She got up and headed toward the library.

After school, José pedaled his bike over to his uncle Freddie’s house. His uncle was sixteen, only three years older than José. It made José feel awkward when someone, usually a girl, asked, “Who’s that hunk?” and he would have to answer, “My uncle.”

”Freddie,” José yelled, skidding to a stop in the driveway. Freddie was in the garage lifting weights. He
was dressed in sweats and a Raiders sweatshirt, the hem of his T-shirt sticking out in a fringe. He bench-pressed 180 pounds,5 then put the weights down and said, “Hey, dude.”

“Freddie, I need to borrow your racquetball racket,” José said. Freddie rubbed his sweaty face on the sleeve of his sweatshirt. “I didn’t know you played.”

“I don’t. I got a game tomorrow.”

“But you don’t know how to play.” José had been worrying about this on his bike ride over. He had told Estela that he had won tournaments. “I’ll learn,” José said. “In one day? Get serious.” “It’s against a girl.”

“So. She’ll probably whip you twenty-one to nada.”

”No way.”

But José’s mind twisted with worry. What if she did, he asked himself. What if she whipped him through and through. He recalled her crushing the milk carton with one blow of her fist. He recalled the sandwiches she downed at lunch. Still, he had never encountered a girl who was better than he was at sports, except for Dolores Ramirez, who could hit homers with the best of them. Uncle Freddie pulled his racket from the garage wall. Then he explained to José how to grip the racket. He told him that the game was like handball, that the play was off the front, the ceiling, and the side walls. “Whatever you do, don’t look behind you. The ball comes back — fast. You can get your ojos knocked out.”

“Yeah, I got it,” José said vaguely, feeling the weight of the racket in his hand. He liked how it felt when he pounded the sweet spot of the strings against his palm.

Freddie resumed lifting weights, and José biked home, swinging the racket as he rode. That night after dinner José went outside and asked his father, “Dad, has a girl ever beaten you at anything?”

His father was watering the grass, his shirt off and a stub of a cigarette dangling from his mouth. His pale belly hung over his belt, just slightly, like a deflated ball.

”Only talking,” he said. “They can outtalk a man any day of the week.”

“No, in sports.” His father thought for a while and then said, “No, I don’t think so.” His father’s tone of voice didn’t encourage José. So he took the racket and a tennis ball and began to practice against the side of the garage. The ball raced away like a rat. He retrieved it and tried again. Every time, he hit it either too softly or too hard, and he couldn’t get the rhythm of a rally going.

“It’s hard,” he said to himself. But then he remembered that he was playing with a tennis ball, not a racquetball. He assumed that he would play better with a real ball.

The next day school was as dull as usual. He took a test in history and returned to his regular score of twelve out of twenty. Mrs. Flores was satisfied.

“I’ll see you later,” Estela said, hoisting her backpack onto one shoulder, the history quiz crumpled in her fist. “OK, Estela,” he said.

”Stinger,” she corrected.

“Yeah, Stinger. 3:45.”

José was beginning to wonder whether he really liked her. Now she seemed abrupt, not cute. She was starting to look like Dolores “Hit ‘n’ Spit” Ramirez — tough.

After school, José walked slowly to the outdoor three-walled courts. They were empty, except for a gang of sparrows pecking at an old hamburger wrapper.

José practiced hitting the tennis ball against the wall. It was too confusing. The ball would hit the front wall, then ricochet off the sidewall. He spent most of his time running after the ball or cursing himself for bragging that he had won tournaments.

Estela arrived, greeting José with a jerk of her chin and a “Hey, dude.” She was dressed in white sweats. A pair of protective goggles dangled around her neck like a necklace, and she wore sweatbands on both wrists. She opened a can of balls and rolled one out into her palm, squeezing it so tightly that her forearm rippled with muscle. When she smacked the ball against the wall so hard that the echo hurt his ears, José realized that he was in trouble. He felt limp as a dead fish.

Estela hit the ball repeatedly. When she noticed that José was just standing there, his racket in one hand and a dog-slobbered tennis ball in the other, she asked, “Aren’t you going to practice?”

“I forgot my balls at home,” he said.

“Help yourself.” She pointed with the racket toward the can… [CONTINUE READING FROM MAIN SITE ITSELF]

the challenge CommonLit Answers Key

Let us now discuss CommonLit The Challenge answers to the questions asked:


Q1. PART A: How do José’s actions develop the theme of the story?

Ans: After his disastrous date with Estela, José learns that lying is not the way to impress a girl.


Q2. PART B: Which detail from the story best supports the answer to Part A?

Ans: “José figured out another way to get to know her. He had noticed the grimy, sweat-blackened handle of a racket poking out of her backpack.” (Paragraph 11)


Q3. PART A: After the racquetball match, how do José’s feelings about Estela change?

Ans: He is impressed by her good sportsmanship, and comes to respect her.


Q4. PART B: Which section from the story best supports the answer to Part A?

Ans: “When his uncle finished his ‘reps,’ José got up slowly and peeled the weights down to sixty pounds. It was his turn to lift.” (Paragraph 74)


Q5. How does paragraph 31 develop the plot of the short story?

Ans: Paragraph 31 develops the plot of the short story by adding a conflict to the story. ¨But Jose´s mind twisted with worry¨ is a quote that supports this.


Discussion Questions With Answers

Q6. In the context of the story, how does love emerge? Why does José initially have feelings for Estela? Why does this change?

Ans: In the short story “The Challenge” the main character Jose does bad things that he doesn’t know to be mean. He created stereotypes like how since Estella was a girl she could not have been good at sports but in the end, she was and she beat him 21 zip.

At the beginning of the story, Jose falls in love with the new girl at her school named Estella. Jose thinks she is cute.

Initially, Jose has feelings for Estella because she is very good in school and gets straight A’s. She is also very talented with other things.

Though early on in the story Jose likes Estella his feelings change. This all happens mainly because she seems very buff and strong unlike Jose’s image of her being a sweet girl.

In the text, Jose has the wrong idea of what girls and boys do. He thinks that only boys can be good at sports and girls have to be good in school and all. This shapes how people interact with each other because some boys think they are extremely fit like Jose did and the girl to be a brainiac. But in the end, Jose was weak compared to Estella.


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