Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ironman

Ironman, by Chris Crutcher
$6.99 at Bn.com ISBN: 0060598409
Ever since I quit smoking I've had a penchant for books like this one: about guys who use dedication to their health to push past all the hard parts of life. Our hero, Bo, is a seventeen-year-old boy at the story's outset, although much of the book takes place during flashbacks to his childhood. He has a rage problem, which has led him to be kicked off the football team and nearly suspended from school. Additionally, his emotionally distant mother and domineering, overly critical father leave our young hero feeling like he has no control in his life. Forced to attend "anger management" seminars, which are of course a total waste of time, he finally finds hope in the form of training for the Ironman competition.
For those of you not familiar, this involves swimming 2.5 miles, biking 100 miles, and running a full marathon. Dedication to this goal gives Bo a channel for his anger and an escape from his prideful parents and incompetent, disinterested teachers. Most interesting is his relationship with his father: the typical male fight for dominance. As a young boy Bo refuses to be humiliated when his father orders him to open and close a door twenty times as punishment for slamming it. This leads to an arms race between father and son that drags on for seven months. When he gives $100 he earned to a homeless man, his father punishes him for it. This sort of pissing contest defines their relationship. Only through athletic excellence can Bo really prove himself the better man.
Like the last book I reviewed (the Giver) this one comes from the Young Adult section, so it's a breeze to get into. It's not at all childish, however. I found it quite nuanced and it touches on a lot of issues relevant as much to adults as kids. The $6.99 cover price and 279 pages means it's not much of a commitment on your part, and a perfect choice for the beginning reader of any age. Into sports? Stories about fathers and sons? One of my favorite themes is brilliantly represented: don't cry about your problems, do something productive and learn some self control. Crutcher has written a few other books, all of them pretty good, aimed at teenage boys.

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