The Pebble Champion, A.D. Pritchard
Publisher: Wilkinson House
Genre: YA, LGBT (G)
Length: 188 pages
Purchase At: Smashwords
“The little red lights of the alarm clock pulsate and for awhile I almost hear the ambulance sirens again.”
Chris, Christopher or Kris (depending on who you ask) is a 15 year old boy who’s just been in a car crash. Unfortunately in this crash Chris loses his mother, who has been the only parent that he can remember. As stipulated in the will London based Chris goes off to live with his father on the Isle of Wight, despite not meeting him since he was 5.
In a small town on the coast Chris starts at a new school and tries to fit in amongst his highly conflicted feelings about love and loss. Pressing on his mind are key questions; Who is this man who is his father? Why did he leave? Why is he thinking about boys and not girls? Was his mother’s death his fault?
To cope Chris invents a pebble skimming championship in his new home playing against imaginary opposition. This little game turns into a journey of Chris overcoming his trauma.
The Parts I Enjoyed
I found Chris to be a really interesting character and I just wanted to keep reading about him more and more. There’s not been many other books which I think have captured that intrinsic inner workings of a 15 year old boy’s mind. I truly connected with Chris seeing a lot of myself at that age in him, I went through many of the same feelings and thought patterns.
“I don’t want to go to the party because seeing other people’s happy lives makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s pathetic, I know.
I don’t want to go to the party because… because I do not trust myself. There. You happy, Chris? Kris? Christ.
I don’t like being 15.”
The Pebble Champion is written in first-person and we hear Chris’ inner voice going through life finding solace, confusion and pain in his head. I loved discovering about Chris’ past through his memories and how they connected to his current situation. In short hearing how he’s convinced his mother’s death was his fault was just heartbreaking.
Read this book CAREFULLY people, I cannot stress this enough. For a good portion of this book we wonder oh so many things about Chris and those around him. If you read carefully you come to the realisation later in the book that you knew all along and if you had read it all that more carefully in the beginning all the questions you have about Chris have already been answered.
I highly enjoyed this part of the book and the ‘Ahhhhhhh…’ moments it provided.
Portrayal of Sexuality
Chris is normal, so normal in fact that it’s incredibly hard to believe he’s gay. Too often I’ve read about gay characters as being nerds, geeks, jocks or have some other stereotype attached to them. I really dislike stereotypes being attached to anyone due to their sexuality. Chris is just plain ‘Chris’ as well as Darryl, who we can consider the main love interest, being ‘Darryl.’ The boys are just that; boys. Each has their own personality and character traits, just like anyone they are individual, and the fact they are gay doesn’t mean they have to become a slave to stereotypes. For this reason these characters blend into this world like there’s nothing different about them at all.
Don’t get me wrong the gay factor is not openly accepted in this 1989 world but I just simply loved that no one cared. Each of the boys is not incredibly worried when they discover this part of themselves. Chris comes to terms with his sexuality through rejection and humiliation but when he finally discovers it in the end, he just feels natural.
The Plunker (A.K.A. What I Didn’t Like)
The Curse of Darryl
Darryl is met by chance on the bus ride at the beginning of the book. By all rights he should never have been heard from again, the UK at this time had a population of 58 million. Instead he just happens to show up on the Isle of Wight, he just happens to be in the same town, he just happens to be on the same section of the beach at the same time as Chris and to me this was just too convenient. Apart from this point the story just felt so realistic and this encounter just dragged me out of an engrossing narrative.
Purpose of the Book
For the middle third of this book it felt like there was no purpose or direction and that the story was muddled and confusing. Paragraph after paragraph I was just wondering whether there was going to be any point or conclusion to this book, it just felt like it was going nowhere. The ending and overall effect of the story justified the reading of The Pebble Champion but I was left with the feeling that it was padded out for release.
The story of finding first love is never going to be an easy one. Add in the loss of what was essentially your only parent and you will be understandably upset and confused. The Pebble Champion is such a wonderful story of a 15 year old boy, you want to cry with, you want to laugh with and you want to feel with. This book does have its flaws but for the most part it creates an entertaining narrative that you can’t put down.
“When I write back, I am going to tell him how much his kiss meant to me – and accept his request to teach him to swim.”