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Ironman by Chris Crutcher
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Ironman (1995)

by Chris Crutcher

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5731727,560 (3.96)7
While training for a triathlon, seventeen-year-old Bo attends an anger management group at school which leads him to examine his relationship with his father.
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This book has so many similarities with Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes: a male athlete main character (Bo) who is bright but gets in trouble with various authority figures (in this case, an English teacher and his father); an asshole teacher (aforementioned); a wise and understanding coach and/or teacher (the Lion; Mr. Nak); an understanding mother; a father who is absent or an asshole (and in this case, in cahoots with the awful English teacher); a strong female peer character (Shelly); and other mistreated/abused misfits.

Both books deal directly with (in)justice and (un)fairness; Ironman focuses more on how anger is a mask for fear, and how the path to controlling your anger is understanding your fears. The adolescent characters in Crutcher's books have a strong work ethic (especially as this applies to team and/or individual sports) and a strong moral ethic as well. They are also developing their adult identities, and sometimes their parents or teachers are not the best role models. Ironman has two strong mentors: swim coach Lionel Serbousek and anger management coach Mr. Nak.

Unlike Sarah Byrnes, which was narrated solely from Eric's POV, Ironman has a dual narrative structure: it consists mostly of e-mails from Bo to Larry King, but also has sections of third-person narration, which cover scenes outside of Bo's experience and/or show him from a different point of view than his own. (The confessional letter-writing is similar to Charlie's letters to an unnamed recipient in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.)

Overall, I really liked it (though not as much as Sarah Byrnes), and I'll probably read more of his books in the near future.

Quotes

"I understand physical pain; I can control it." (8)

"...guys who can look inside you scare the hell out of me. You never know when they'll come out and say what they see. I can't tell you how much I'm afraid of looking bad....Being uneasy in front of people makes me feel out of control, and when I feel that way I do things I would never do when I'm okay. More than anything, I hate feeling foolish." (38)

"I'm afraid you might have said what most adults say: that teenagers aren't quite done yet, that we're impulsive and adults intervene because we aren't ready to manage our lives." (56)

"Y'all remember that. Self-hate is the worst feelin' of them all. Feelings are real, folks. An' nobody gets to identify yours but you. Now what you do with those feelins is another thing, an' that's why we're here." (62)

Bo feels the frustration of lost justice rising in his chest... (73)

That's how he commands all that power, Bo thinks. He lays back until something's really important, then he comes on full blast. (115)

"I think that saved me, I was devastated...but it was the first time an adult every stood up for me." (141)

"I sit back and watch you now, and know that part of your struggle is developmental - that as an adolescent, you need to separate from your dad to establish who you are." (151)

"It's fear that's crazy in the world, not anger. But the more fear there is, the more anger it takes to cover it. I swear to God, I'm starting to get it." (172)

"If what's comin' from others don't make you feel better about yourself in the world, then it probably ain't good for you. An' if it ain't good for you, it ain't love. That ain't the whole story, but it'll do for a start." (199)

"There is no act of heroism that doesn't include standing up for yourself." (210)

"...my anger is a cover for my fear, and only when I admit to that fear will I get control of my anger, or in fact have no need for it." (221)

When your role in life is to be a smartass for the benefit of all within earshot, he tells himself, it's good to get alone and welcome some seriousness. (247)

"If [you] ever want to see how something works, look at it broken." (254)

"The nature of mercy allows for all things. It excuses nothing, but it allows for all things." (276) ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
Crutcher's gritty writing brings his real life characters to life. The rich and realistic plot is riverting and the father-son relationship gone bad is captivating. Adolescent both boys and girls will enjoy this book.
  djlewis | Nov 26, 2012 |
I listened to this in the car and I loved driving because this book was so good. Bo trains for the ironman race and has to fight his father who gives his opponent a $5000 bike. His dad thinks it will teach him something if he loses! The anger management class saves his soul. 8/20 ( )
  peggygillman | Oct 12, 2012 |
Following an altercation with his football coach seventeen year old Beauregard Brewster find himself in trouble and excluded from school, his only way back is to attend Mr Nakatani's early morning Anger Management classes. We follow Bo's progress both through the third person narrative and in Bo's own words in his letters to talk show host Larry King.

Along the way Bo learns a lot about himself, his strong willed father now separated from his mother, his fellow students in Mr Nak's class (who regard the preppy Bo his as out of place in the class), as well as coming to terms with an unpalatable fact, to Bo, that he learns about his favorite teacher and swimming coach Mr Serbousek. He also finds an unlikely girlfriend.

While attending Mr Nak's class Bo is also in training for a marathon triathlon, cycling, running and swimming, and he finds support from surprising sources and apparent disloyalty also from surprising individuals.

This is a good read, Bo's letters to Larry are full of humour and wit, and the story itself is full of wise counsel but never becomes preachy. ( )
  presto | Apr 23, 2012 |
Ironman by Chris Crutcher (2004): Bo is a high school senior who spends all of his free time training for an Ironman competition, until a disagreement with a teacher forces him to add anger management classes to his schedule. But the real sources of his anger may be closer to home.

The frame of Bo’s narrative - a series of letters to Larry King - is at once bizarre, dated, and timeless (like Larry King himself), and allows the reader access to Bo’s personal perspective. Crutcher also uses an omniscient narrator to describe events outside Bo’s perception, but the transitions between narrator can be jarring. Nevertheless, it is easy to get swept up into Bo’s senior year, especially as the drama - on multiple fronts - begins to develop. In addition to the father-son dynamic that is at the heart of Bo’s struggle, Crutcher brings difficult issues to life such as bullying, tolerance, the consequences of drunk driving, sexual and emotional abuse, and parentless households.
  tomlide | Mar 8, 2011 |
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In memory of my mom -
1922-1994
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Dear Larry, at 4:30 each morning I awaken to your voice.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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