||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (January 2015)|
|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 fishing with his father and a recent dispute with Coach Redmond, Bo’s football coach and English teacher, the teenager trains vigorously for the Yukon Jack Ironman Triathlon. Along the way Bo is forced to enroll in the school’s anger management program, where much to his surprise he meets a wise old shop teacher and a group of supposed delinquents who inspire and support him further in his efforts.
Bo wants to participate in the Yukon Jack, a biking-swimming-running triathlon. The things that get in his way involve relationship problems with his father, as well as an English teacher and old football coach, who Bo keeps calling horrible names. Because of this, Bo must participate in anger management classes. While Bo is training, he finds out his mentor, who teaches the swimming team, is gay. Bo's foil is Wyrak, who is challenged by Bo's martial arts girlfriend, Shelly. When you thought nothing else could get worse in the poor boy's life, you find out that Bo's father gave a bike that Bo had been saving up for the Yukon Jack to buy from his dad, just gives it away to Wyrak. 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.
Crutcher got many comments about the reception, the majority of them about the characters. 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.
Some other (potentially controversial) themes the novel touches on include:
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."