Exquisite Reads for Young Adults

Katie Dietzman – San Jose State University – LIBR 265 – Spring 2013 – Instructor Elizabeth Wrenn-Estes

Ironman by Chris Crutcher

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File:Ironmancrutcher.jpgBibliographic Information:
Ironman by Chris Crutcher
1995, New York: Greenwillow Books
ISBN: 978-0688135034

Plot Summary:
Bo Brewster has never seen eye to eye with his father.  So after years of dysfunction and his parent’s divorce, Bo quits his schools football team to channel his rage into training for the upcoming Yukon Jack Ironman triathlon contest.  Deciding he doesn’t want to take crap from anybody anymore, he angrily lashes out on a teacher, which lands him in his schools anger management group.  The group is headed by Mr. Nak, a Japanese cowboy from Texas who has had a troubled past of his own.  The rest of the group is made up of his school’s delinquent, troubled, and truant kids who aren’t quite sure that Bo fits in with them.  Bo isn’t quite sure himself, but that doesn’t stop him from finding a girlfriend amongst them and learning a lot more about life than he planned from those around him who have lived through their own horrible experiences.

Critical Evaluation:
This book is quite unique in that it is told in two different styles. One from the outside looking in on Bo, and the other in Bo’s own words in letters he writes to the legendary talk show host Larry King.  Larry is quite the odd choice, but he’s been around so long that this was probably the only way to be sure that the book stays relevant for longer that him writing to somebody who was a one hit celebrity that nobody would have heard of five years after the book came out.  He writes to Larry in a style that alternates between journal entry, story telling and narratives.  Most letters are so long, you forget that it’s Bo writing until he casually throws in a “Can you believe that, Lar?” in the middle of what he’s saying and then you remember that he’s supposed to be a high school boy sending his favorite host his life-story so that it can be told on TV or in a book. It’s odd, but you get used to it if only because you forget that’s what he’s really doing.  The switching back and forth out of the letters and the third person narrative also takes getting used to, but it’s nice to be able to hop in and out of Bo’s head during the story and to get different perspectives.

Reader’s Annotation:
Bo had been let down by a lot of people in his life, but the one person he isn’t going to let down is himself.

About the Author:
“Chris Crutcher, 66, is the author of fourteen books — eleven novels, including his latest PERIOD 8, 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  and  30 years as a Spokane Child Protection Team leader 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. Chris Crutcher makes his home in Spokane, Washington.”
(Authors Website, 2013)

Chris Crutcher’s Twitter: @ChrisCrutcher

Realistic Fiction, Sports

Curriculum Ties:

Book-Talking Ideas:
Discuss Mr. Nak’s pack and the different personalities of the group members.

Bo’s relationships with other males vary greatly throughout the book. Discuss his relationships with his father, Wyrack, and Mr. S.

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Lexile Reading Level: 980 / Ages 15+

Challenge Issues:
The book could be challenged due to themes of:

  • Mental Abuse
  • Physical Abuse
  • Delinquent Behavior
  • Vulgar Language
  • Homosexuality

Challenge Defense:

  • Be aware of and refer to the library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material and the context of the questionable content.
  • Refer to the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult positive book reviews found online, and from others who have read the book.
  • Know if the book has won any notable awards.
  • Have access to a copy of the library’s Reconsideration Form if a challenge is made.

Why Included?
I was looking to add another title that would appeal to boys so I asked a friend who recommended this book. Since I also hadn’t added a Chris Crutcher title, I thought this was a great fit. A lot of boys have awkward or strained relationships with their father at least once in their life. I think this is a great addition and one that will really hit home with the boys not only because of the family aspect, but because of the sports and funny approach Bo takes to talking his issues out.


  • ALA Best Books for Young Adults 1996

Crutcher, C (2013). VERY Brief & Brief Biographies. Retrieved from http://www.chriscrutcher.com/biography.html

Ironman (novel). (2013, May 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ironman_(novel)/

Metametrics. (2013). The Lexile Framework for Reading: Ironman. Retrieved from http://www.lexile.com/book/details/9780440219712/

Author: SassMouthKatie

Bookworm Extraordinaire.

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