Ironman by Chris Crutcher

Book Info
Ironman by Chris Crutcher
© 2004 Greenwillow Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0060598402

Plot Summary
Bo Brewster comes from a slightly dysfunctional family in rural eastern Washington. Bo lives with his mother and younger brother, and motivated by years of conflict with his overly demanding and critical father, Bo channels his energy and emotions into training for the Yukon Jack Ironman Triathlon. After an in class altercation with his English teacher, he gets sent to an anger management class where Bo meets the wise old shop teacher Mr. Nak and joins the group of delinquents. Mr. Nak, a Japanese cowboy with a troubled past of his own, is able to truly connect with the group and teach them how to rise above the things that make them angry. With the help of his new girlfriend, Shelly, and the rest of anger management, Bo prepares for the triathlon and struggles to overcome the emotional obstacles instigated by his devious father.

Reader’s Annotation
After an altercation with his teacher, Bo Brewster winds up with the group of misfits in the school’s anger management program. With the help of this new group of unlikely friends, Bo must train for an ironman triathlon while struggling through his own emotional obstacles in order to finally take a stand against his overbearing father.

Critical Evaluation
The book begins as a letter from the main character, Bo, to talk show host and television personality Larry King, and then it switches to a third person narrator. The book continues on in this fashion, and while the letters are supposed to be Bo’s memoirs that tell his story for when he becomes a famous athlete, they are somewhat like journal entries and tend to be very personal and explain exactly what Bo is feeling. Some of the things he tells Larry seem a little too personal or irrelevant for their purpose as memoirs, and Bo even makes reference to that fact commenting that he intends to black out certain things before he actually mails them off to Larry. Overall, I found this back and forth interesting, though sometimes confusing. I often had to reread sections of text to make sure I understood what was happening and which characters were involved. Despite the occasional confusion, the style was an interesting and engaging method of telling Bo’s story and developing him and his relationships with the other characters.

Information about the Author
Chris Crutcher, 64, is the author of thirteen books — ten novels, two short story collections and an autobiography.  Prior to his work as an author, he taught school in Washington and California and acted as director of an Oakland alternative school for nearly a decade.  That academic history coupled with 25 years as a child and family therapist specializing in abuse and neglect has infused his literary work with realism and emotional heft.  His signature blend of tragedy and comedy have made him a favorite with teen and adult readers.

He is also one of the most frequently banned authors in North America — a fact he considers an accomplishment, rather than a drawback.

A popular Voices from the Middle columnist for several years, Crutcher has been awarded the NCTE’s National Intellectual Freedom Award, the ALAN Award, the ALA’s Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award, the CLA’s St. Katharine Drexel Award and Writer magazine’s Writers Who Make a Difference Award.

Chris Crutcher makes his home in Spokane, Washington.

From the author’s website.

Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the relationship and power struggle between Bo and his father.

Discuss how Mr. Nak’s past has affected his life and his goals with Anger Management.

Reading Level/ Interest Age

Challenge Issues

  • Foul language.
  • Disrespect for authority.


Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • Is the language unnecessary? Have an understanding for what has caused Bo to react to certain displays of authority in such a negative manner.

Why Included?
The required reading Hope in Patience made reference to this book. I was previously unfamiliar with Crutcher and his work, and a few days later a friend coincidentally suggested Ironman as something I should read. It felt like fate and added it to my blog project.


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