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|Cover artist||Chris Crutcher|
|Genre||Young adult novel|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Preceded by||Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes|
|Followed by||Whale Talk|
Ironman is a 1995 novel by young adult writer Chris Crutcher who studied art and literature at the University of Notre Dame in his twenties. He created the novel's cover image himself using the medium of oil pastel.
The novel is the story of Beauregard Brewster, a high school student training for a triathlon while also in disputes with his father and English teacher, both of whom exhibit portentous views of masculine authority. The book is written as a combination of traditional third person narrative and epistolary novel through a series of informal letters written by the protagonist to CNN personality Larry King. The novel has received numerous accolades including being recognized by the American Library Association as a Best Book for Young Adults.
The story takes place in Spokane, Washington where Beauregard (Bo) Brewster lives with his mother and younger brother Jordan. Motivated by years of power struggles with his father, the teenager trains vigorously for the Yukon Jack Ironman Triathlon while attending anger management sessions and writing letters to Larry King about his experiences.
Bo wants to participate in the Yukon Jack, a biking-running-swimming triathlon. After the latest dispute with his English teacher lands him in anger management, Bo is brought face-to-face with his own family problems (namely his difficult relationship with his father), and has his eyes opened to the issues his classmates are dealing with. Bo receives support in his training and his life from the anger management teacher, a Japanese cowboy known as Mr Nak, and from Bo's mentor, "Lion" Serbousek, a teacher who also coaches the swim team. Bo comes to be inspired and supported by the group of supposed delinquents he meets in anger management, deals with the realization that Mr S. is gay, and starts dating his classmate Shelly, whose athleticism surpasses even Bo's own. Extra trouble arrives with Wyrak, a swimmer and a bully who clashes with Bo, and then bets Shelly he can beat Bo in the Yukon Jack. But with the help of the other kids in the anger management group, Bo overcomes the obstacles and meets his goal, to compete in the Yukon Jack triathlon, and also beats Wyrack.
- Beauregard "Bo" Brewster is the narrator and protagonist. Bo is humorous with his father and has been forced to join anger management. Bo attempts to deal with his feelings by training to become a triathlete.
- Mr. Nakatani is a teacher who is in charge of the school's anger management group. Mr. Nak is calm and patient with his "eclectic mix of hard-edged students." Some of the "truants'" names are Elvis, Shuja, and Hudgie. Of Asian descent, Mr. Nak has a Texas accent, a cowboy attitude, and the determination of a martial artist.
- Lionel Serbousek is Bo's supportive journalism teacher and mentor. Bo struggles to cope with his discovery that Mr. Serbousek is homosexual. Mr. Serbousek is also a character in Crutcher's other novel, Stotan.
- Shelly is Bo's girlfriend and another member of the Anger Management group. She is an athlete like Bo, training to be an American Gladiator, and she encourages Bo to train for his triathlon and to stand up to Ian Wyrack. Her past is as fraught with conflict and tragedy as the other members of Anger Management, but unlike them she is there by choice, because she wants to avoid repeating the past.
- Ian Wyrack is a college student who trains under Mr. Serbousek, and who comes into conflict with Bo when Bo joins the team's workouts. Wyrack resents the fact that Bo is faster than he, and later bets Bo's girlfriend 500 dollars that his relay team can beat Bo in the Yukon Jack triathlon.
- Lucas Brewster is Bo's father and the main antagonist. He is controlling and authoritarian, and Bo comes into frequent conflict with him. He is divorced from Bo's mother, but although Bo and his brother live with their mom, they still see their dad frequently.
Like most of Crutcher's novels, this book features characters with intense backstories. Crutcher deals with many intense and extremely difficult issues, and his characters reflect that. Gorman wrote, “Bo’s father is not merely mean, he’s vicious.” And, “When Bo finds a girlfriend, she is not merely understanding, she is martial arts expert who was horrendously mistreated by an adoptive family and is training to be on the ‘American Gladiators’ television show.” And, “The leader of Bo’s anger management group, which is central to the narrative, is not merely wise, warm and brave, he is a Japanese-American cowboy with a full Texas twang.” And, “Other kids in the group are not just in trouble, they are victims of child molestation, physical and verbal abuse, poverty and abandonment.” And, “The bad guys are so bad. One of them even shoots his child’s puppy!"
Like many of Crutcher's other novels, Ironman deals with the physical and emotional growth of adolescent athletes. This novel focuses on father-son relationships with the dynamic between Bo and his father, and on anger management through Mr. Nak's group, which talks about the causes and true emotions behind the anger many characters experience.
Some other (potentially controversial) themes the novel touches on include:
Themes and Reviews
Crutcher got many reviews for the theme. O'malley wrote about Bo's goals by saying," Beauregard Brewster yearns to excel in the upcoming Yukon Jack, swimming-biking-running triathlon." O'malley also talked about the implements that get in Bo's way. She wrote," we meet Beau's father, whose difficult relationship with his son bears strong resemblance to that between Redmond and Beau. O'malley also wrote the obstacles Bo has to face." She noted, " Anger management group sessions at school that beau has been ordered to attend." And, " Lionel Serbousck, now a young-and, accidentally, gay- journalism teacher and an important mentor." Sierruta commented on Crutcher's idea of Bo's and his dad's relationship in the past and how it affects their relationship in the future. In the Horn Book Magazine, he wrote, " when Beauregard Brewster was nine years old, a confrontation with his father over a slammed door caused him to be banished to his room from his own family. For several months Bo was confined to his bedroom and forbidden to participate in after-school activities, eat at the dinner table, or even join the family for Christmas celebration. Although Bo is now a high school senior, the incident serves as a metaphor for his life." This particular incident was the first manifestation of a power struggle between Bo and his father than is still going strong throughout the book.