Friday, February 8, 2013

Book review: Ironman

Ironman by Chris Crutcher

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday

Bo has been at war with his father for as long as he can remember. The rage he feels gives him the energy as a triathlete to press his body to the limit, but it also translates into angry outbursts toward his teachers.

Now dangerously close to expulsion from school, Bo has been assigned to Anger Management sessions with the school "truants." With an eclectic mix of hard-edged students, Bo may finally have to deal with his long-brewing hatred for his father -- before it eats away at him completely.

I, historically, LOVE Christ Crutcher. I highly recommend his novels Whale Talk and Deadline.

I didn't love this one, though.

Crutcher is and/or was a teacher and a child and family therapist, so he has LOADS of experience. His books typically deal with "issues" without becoming an "issue book." Whale Talk, for example, includes storylines about racism and domestic violence. But it isn't about either of those things.

Ironman focuses on Bo's relationship with his father, among other subjects. One of the reasons I think I didn't like Ironman as much is that it strays to the other side of that line -- it's almost too much of an issue book. It felt like Crutcher was trying to impart lessons on his audience rather than letting the character's development speak for itself.

The format of the book was also a little tricky. It was told in two perspectives. The first, which I loved, was when Bo was writing letters to Larry King. These really showed Bo's development and allowed the reader to get to know Bo.

The other perspective was a third person, omnipresent (is that the right word?) narration. These parts weren't so great for me. It was nice to see things happen and it helped move the story along, but that's where it felt like we were being taught. It was also frustrating to be taken from Bo's perspective, because the third person sections didn't show his development at all, and sometimes I felt like Bo's personality changed between the two perspectives.

Ironman is one of Crutcher's earlier books -- it was first published in 1995, I believe. This is obvious not only in the letters to Larry King, but also in the way certain subjects are handled. I think, if he were to return to this storyline, Crutcher would write some plotlines differently now, simply because of the ways the world has changed.

The saving grace of this book for me was what I always love about Crutcher's books -- he writes some awesome characters. They make this book worth reading. Unfortunately, the characters in this book really shine in the last few chapters. But man. They're as good as Crutcher's characters usually are.

I ended up giving Ironman two stars, though it had three before I changed my mind. I loved the characters, but the rest was just a let down compared to others of Crutcher's books.

Have any of you read a book by Chris Crutcher? I'd love to hear what you thought!


Shoshanah said...

I've never heard of Chris Crutcher before, so I definitely haven't read one of his books. Although you definitely have sparked a curiosity in me.

Kaylee Snyder said...

I love Chris Crutcher. Whale Talk is an amazing book. I also really enjoyed Staying Fat for Sarah Burns. Now I'm going to have to check out some of his other books. Thanks for the reminder!


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