Title: The Triathlete
Author: Ascher Halden
Cover artist: n/a
Publisher: MEZ9 Lit
Amazon: Buy Link The Triathlete
Genre: YA gay fiction
Length: 446 pages
Rating. 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius.
Summary: The young protagonist in this book has to deal with poverty, bullying, realizing that he is gay. This was not an easy read, but I thought that the ending was extremely rewarding.
Wyatt Reid lives in a run-down duplex with a mother whom he sees as nothing more than an occasional sticky note on the fridge. When he’s not trying to scrounge up scraps of food from the lady at the convenience store down the street, the lady who has a new name each week, he tries to stay off the radar of the malevolent school bully, Cyrus. The summer before Wyatt is set to start high school, he’s coerced by Cyrus to break into a house. While Cyrus makes off with an expensive triathlon bike, Wyatt’s left taking the fall for everything. He gets busted by the bikes owner, an obsessed elite triathlete named Cole.
Cole’s roommate, a trust-fundee named Kevin, takes pity on Wyatt after he’s released from juvenile hall. Despite Cole’s objections, Kevin gives Wyatt a chance to right the situation by letting him work off his debt by doing housework. As Wyatt works, he builds a rapport with Cole and begins training on his own to escape the negative realities of his own life. He will have to go toe-to-toe with Cyrus to defend his best friend with Down’s Syndrome, Rudy, and his boyfriend, Riley.
I want to warn you guys again – the book is written in the present tense. If you dislike it no matter what, stay away. I actually thought that this was not the smoothest present tense work I have read and it took time for me to get used to the writing style, but when I did, maybe after first ten or fifteen percent of the story, it flowed really well and I could not put the book away.
If I were to try and distinguish this book from many other YA books I have read this year, I would have probably said that Wyatt is the protagonist who actually has it rough in many areas of his life, not just figuring out his sexuality. In fact, I would not call this book a romance, even though it has a sweet romantic storyline in it for the main character.
I actually thought that some sweetness was badly needed in this book, because Wyatt has actually to endure so very much before he eventually triumphs over his misfortunes. As the blurb can tell you he had to deal with the extreme bullying over prolonged period of time and when I say extreme, I mean that. Sadly it felt very realistic, but that did not stop me though from wanting to shake Wyatt and ask him to exercise some brain power earlier than he did. So the sweetness of first love was a very nice and well done distraction from a lot of pain our main character actually endures.
I thought Wyatt’s journey of maturing and learning how to stand up for himself and his friends was extremely well done. Of course it helped that he met adults in his life who were able to help him to do it, but I really liked how it was not an easy journey for the adults either. I thought Cole’s character arc and him and Wyatt becoming friends was just so very lovely. Cole’s trying so very hard not to let his wall down around Wyatt and finally letting himself to trust and to help Wyatt was such a pleasure to read about. Another adult who I thought was extremely well portrayed was Wyatt’s mother. I thought that while she would not win a mother of the year’s award from me, I was very surprised how the author managed to portray her as a very flawed human being and still made me care for her.
Yes, it was a nice coincidence that Wyatt ended up loving the sport and training helped him to concentrate on something positive he could achieve, but then I wondered whether becoming friends with Cole and seeing him as a good role model was what actually caused Wyatt wanting to start his own training. Maybe it was not such a coincidence after all. I also thought that the fact that the author managed to keep me interested in the training and the sport itself was no small feat, because I recently could not finish the book about runners, so boring and tedious it felt. Granted the triathlon is not just about running, but running is a part of that.
I just wanted to stress one more time – the story does not hold back in describing the effects bullying has on kids. I thought it was upsetting but realistic, in fact while the bully did not have any redeeming qualities to me, he did not feel like a caricature, just a real life monster.
I really enjoyed this book, I even thought that the author pulled rather happy ending quite well and it did not feel tackled on. I could certainly imagine story going a different way for Wyatt if he never met Cole and Kevin, but I was pleased with the way it ended so very much.