Crutcher, C. (1995). Ironman. New York: Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 068813503X.
"I sat in a dark room upstairs in my house and decided not to end my own life like I done my children's. I think not many people understand the nature of mercy, because it gets misnamed a lot-hooked up with organized religions when there ain't no call for that-but I see it as the only medicine available for our anger, it is the only medicine for our hurt, it is the only medicine for our desperation." -page 179"
Bo Brewster is an aspiring triathlete with issues; anger management issues, problems at home, bullies at school, etc. Due to an outburst Bo is placed in an anger management class with what he considers to be a collection of likely future serial killers. He is initially reluctant about the anger management experience but, needs to complete the class in order to not get kicked out of high school. While completing the course and training for an upcoming triathlon Bo finds he has more in common with the potential serial killers and learns a lot about himself, family, and life along the way.
This realistic fiction sports drama takes place in somewhat present time; I say that due to the Bruce Springsteen and Rod Stewart references. In this book Bo, the main character is not the only one with issues, but everyone, which is refreshing. My favorite thing about this novel is that it uses humor to explore very serious and real issues which are present in a young adults life. Issues such as rejection, anger management, family dysfunctional, to the more serious issues of death, alcoholism, and sexual and physical abuse.
There is no safe portrayal of an unflawed character in this novel, with the exception of letters/journal entries which Bo writes to Larry King, his voice of reason. The story is broken up between scenes taking place at anger management, dialogue between family members, letter/journal entries, and dialogue taking place between other characters not including Bo. So, though the story is told through Bo's perspective, the narrator is in the third-person omniscient style.
Shelley, Bo's girlfriend who he meets at anger management class is an aspiring gladiator who Bo's father refers to as "beefy" at one point in time in the novel. The characters are so well thought out that they do not reinforce conventional cliches of what young adults sound like, look like, or do. The only problem I personally had with the novel was the triathlete/athletic heavy dialog which I had a hard time fanning an interest in a lot of the time. But, that is due to me being a girl with a short attention span when it comes to any sports activity with the exception of basketball.
All in all, I think this is an excellent book and one that would especially interest male readers.
Chris Crutcher uses humor and straight talk to present a variety of issues facing kids today, love, divorce, child abuse, managing anger, even finding out someone you care about is homosexual. I find I am able to discuss these issues with my students using the book as a springboard. One of my students said, "This is the best book I have ever read. The kids in the book talk like us and feel like us." Another student said she laughed out loud when reading it at home. The other reviews presented the plot, I just wanted you to know what my teens thought of the book. -Reader's Review, Judy C. Harvey
Crutcher reassembles some of the character types he used to riveting effect in his stellar Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes: a teenage misfit narrator enduring grueling athletic training; a tough heroine with a tragic past; a right-wing authoritarian heavy; enlightened teachers; and a sadistic father. At its best, the narrative crackles along in the author's inimitable style. Beauregard Brewster, a would-be Ironman triathlete, chronicles the events that ensue after he insults an oppressive teacher and is forced to take an anger-management class with other troubled students. But Crutcher's message sometimes overwhelms the cast and the story line. Beau's stern father, who has to be right at all costs-even if it means stacking the deck against his son-is one of the few fully fleshed-out characters. Many are either saintly multiculturalists (Beau's gay swimming coach, earlier met in Stotan; "Mr. Nak" the Japanese cowboy anger-management teacher; the black female high school principal) or, in the case of the offensive teacher, outright villains. In spite of these flaws, Crutcher achieves many memorable moments-exchanges between the students in the anger-management class, for example, are idealized but often deeply moving. Ages 12-up. -Publisher's Weekly