Tag Team Review: Big Man by Matthew J. Metzger

Max Farrier wanted to follow in the family footsteps and join the Navy once, but he’s better off focusing on just surviving his last year of school and going to work in Aunt Donna’s shop once it’s over.

After an incident at school puts Max in the hospital, Aunt Donna’s had enough. She signs him up for private lessons at a Muay Thai gym. Boxing—she says—will change everything.

But it’s not boxing that starts to poke holes in Max’s stupor—it’s his sparring partner. Cian is fifty percent mouth, fifty percent attitude, and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with a bully in the street. Cian takes what he wants, and doesn’t let anyone stand in his way—not even himself.

4.75 Average

Sara - 5 Hearts

I am warning you now, this is going to be a ramble of epic redhead proportions. This book was so much more than I thought I was getting and I am head over heels in love with Max, Cian and Matthew Metzger for giving me their story.

From the blurb, one could assume this book would be nothing but the self-hate of an overweight boy who is bullied and made happy by losing weight and that would be dead wrong. This book is so much more than that because while all of that; the self-hate, bullying and happiness is found in the book, it only scratches the surface of a truly profound read of finding yourself and loving yourself enough to love another person.

There will always be people who want to stomp on you. They don’t care if you have the right to go about your life how you like; they don’t care if you’ve ever done anything to them—they just find it funny. There will always be those people. And the best way of warding them off is letting them know you’re not a victim, that picking on you is going to end very badly for them.”
The book opens with a violent encounter between Max Farrier and the boys who bully him. It’s violent and made me sick to my stomach with what they do to Max that ends him in the hospital. We know, as the story is told from Max’s POV, that this happens regardless of the school he goes to, that he can’t out run what people see and do to him but Max is lucky he has a carrying Aunt Donna who knows he deserves better. Now I admit I didn’t like Aunt Donna when she first came on the page. I am not a fan of violence in anyway and her theory of Max learning martial arts to protect himself was all fine and dandy but my original introduction to her didn’t sit well. That is until she told Max about being attacked for being a lesbian and then it made sense. She doesn’t want Max to be violent, she wants Max to learn a skill to yes be able to protect himself but also to build his confidence enough to stand up for himself. So after that and through the rest of the book, I adored Aunt Donna and what she has done for Max and his mom. Oh yeah, Aunt Donna isn’t really his aunt, she is the fiancé of his mother, the Aunt title just fit when they became a family and it’s stuck.

I was excited that Max would be learning Muay Thai. I love the sport – via my crush on Gina Carano – and have always wanted to take it up at the local gym in my town but I have always been afraid to walk in looking like an idiot who has zero coordination. You see, there is a lot of Max in this book that spoke to me. I’ll just get this out there now, I was that fat girl in school. The one everyone made fun of, pushed around, never picked for a team until I was the only choice left, the one picked on ruthlessly by the girls in the locker room when I pulled my too small shirts over my knees to stretch them out so they didn’t cling to my stomach rolls. The girl that was called Thunder Thighs and told my ass was so big it could be sat on like a shelf by the boy I once had a crush on. The girl whose mother would give her a piece of Big Red gum before she left for school in the morning, telling her that if she chewed that all day maybe she wouldn’t eat and could lose weight. The girl whose nickname in her family was “Fatty” and was put on a coffee diet in Kindergarten by one of her sisters because I was too fat and embarrassed her when she had to watch me. There are so many instances I can think of as a young girl and into adulthood and while I may have lost weight, I am still that fat girl. The weight loss didn’t take away the identity of that girl who was told for so long she was unattractive, unwanted and unlovable because her knees were fat. That doesn’t go away and yeah, it causes issues in my life even at almost 41 years of age but the self-hate talk, I try to tame it. Try being the operative word but it doesn’t always work. So Max, I get him being the fat kid in school but Max has an advantage, people who love him and want nothing more for him to be happy…no matter his size.
It seemed too easy. Too Simple. Was a new boyfriend and a hobby all it took to be someone other than Fatso Farrier?
So back to Aunt Donna. Donna signs Max up for private lessons at the gym to learn Muay Thai and Max must stick it out for 16 weeks or Aunt Donna won’t let him be her apprentice. On that first day, Max meets his partner Cian, who he believes at first sight to be a girl. Cian opens feelings within Max that he believes are beyond his grasp. But he still likes the sight of Cian and being partnered even though that first workout kicks his ass. I know what those workouts feel like. I have recently joined a gym which focuses on endurance events so I know that feeling of DOMs when it sets in and how you feel like dying so I was so damn proud of Max getting up and going again and again. Sure, he has the lure of Cian to pull him in and I adored so, so, so much that when Max is set straight about Cian, when Cian tells him he is a boy, Max decides he totally okay with still fancying Cian because well he’s Cian.

Cian. Wow. What an amazing boy to meet and read. Cian is this strong character that challenges Max every step of the way. He makes Max see what is in front of him even if that means looking down to see his ankles, because Cian is supportive and in his own way, on a journey of self-acceptance just like Max. With Max, it’s about his weight and being able to stand up to the boys that bully him and Cian, he’s a bit more complicated and I fell hard for him with his “layout” struggle and how it all makes him feel.
“If I can’t be brave with you, I might never be.”
This book takes you on a journey of these two young adults and doesn’t hold back when dealing with their issues. Max doesn’t set out to lose weight by going to the gym but it’s a byproduct of his hard work and dedication. His story is not saying goodbye to being “Fatso Farrier”, but owning the name and turning into something he uses for himself and lets it breathe a new life. Words can hurt, they can leave terrible damage when used as weapons but when we take those words and take ownership of them, they become ours and names like Fatso Farrier become an empowerment and not contempt. Really, this isn’t about Max losing weight so much as about Max becoming an athlete and building the confidence to trust his instinct. That instinct is important with Cian and with the boys that bully him but when it comes to Cian…

Gah! These two were adorable and I loved the way they came together. All the teasing while going through their private workouts together and the friendship they begin before the romance comes into play. For two young adults these two had excellent communication and that made a huge difference. It was amazing that Max could ask Cian questions about being transgender and Cian was open to it, even if he had his limits on Max staring. The exploration of sexuality between Max and Cian was stunningly gorgeous and so respectful and yet, so on point for a couple beginning a relationship. Yup, even at this age it was perfect and they really brought out the best in their partner.
He could feel Cian. Not the girl, not the boy, not the passage between the two. Just Cian. He wanted to feel that everywhere, all of the time.
I have written so much already and haven’t even said anything about Max and his desire to join the Navy and be an officer like his late father and the Farrier men before him. Max lost his father when he was three and the male figure in his life was his grandpa who has passed now as well. I felt for Max because once again we have something in common. Where Max used to build models with his grandpa and hasn’t since he died, I used to read and discuss Stephen King books with my late father and haven’t touch a single one in the 20+ years since he’s been gone. Max has so much more to deal with than just his weight but just like anyone, we are so much more than what is seen on the outside.

This book! Wow. I cried at least a dozen times with moments that were so profound, there was no other way to react. I cheered for Max with every step that takes him closer to being the Big Man he can be and yeah, that title, it has a meaning that is at least threefold to the story and not just about what Max weighs. I loved the stories of his father and how Cian calls him Big Man… sigh.
That epilogue made me grin like a fool and made me have a minute or ten with my Nook to hug it out.

Again, this book was so much more than I thought I would be getting and just know, Max and Cian stunning, brave, strong and so fucking adorable.

This was so good.

So good.

Fantasy Living - 4.5 Hearts

Max is incredibly uncomfortable living in his skin, and has reached a place in his high school life where depression and anxiety have kicked in. He is a victim of school bullying, his perpetrators becoming more physically violent, and relentless. There doesn’t appear to be any action from the school, and he has decided that rather than continue being attacked, he’ll finish off the year and do an apprenticeship instead of two more years of torture.

After a particularly vicious attack, his step-mum takes the approach of him needing self-defence, now a requirement of him getting an apprenticeship with her, and books him in for private lessons with a Muay Thai coach. This is where he meets Cian.

A lot of this story is difficult. Self-loathing is at the heart of Max’s internal dialogue. It is loud and disturbing. It is painful to read. Cian appears to be the only bright spot in Max’s life in the beginning, and even he can’t silence the awful things Max thinks about himself for much of the story.

This is told entirely from Max’s point of view, but there is plenty of Cian, and I felt I knew him well through Max. I liked the way Max’s confidence started building through learning Muay Thai and being challenged by Cian. While getting to know each other, Max seemed to really develop and see the world a little differently. It was gradual, but it was very clear. There were some mishaps, some setbacks, but overall Max started to come out of his shell more and show Cian who he is as a person.

I really appreciated this book. It was raw and unfiltered. It hurt at times to read. I don’t think this will be for everyone. There is violence, bullying, verbal abuse, misgendering and fat shaming. There is also a lot of beauty and joy between Max and Cian. I really appreciate the author’s raw portrayal of some really difficult topics, in a well written story that took me on a journey I wasn’t expecting. I’m happy these two found each other, and that Max was able to shine in a way that made me believe he would be okay.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion.

No comments:

Post a Comment