TI’m currently reading The Antagonist by Lynn Coady. It tells the story of Gordon Rankin Jr. He was always one of the bigger kids on the ice when he played hockey. He didn’t consider himself a goon, but most of his friends, family, and fans sure did. For those who don’t know, a goon, or an enforcer, is what you call a hockey player who plays rough and dirty, like a bully in some ways. I have a biased view of Gordon’s experiences, because I can really relate to his stories. Like Gordon, I was always bigger than the other kids. When I played hockey, most of the other kids’ heads were not much higher than my shoulders, and I had 30 pounds on many of them. As a result, when I’d go in for a body check I’d sometimes end up hitting a kid in the head or knocking them too hard into the boards. This made many people consider me a goon, like they did Gordon.
I’m about a third of the way through The Antagonist, and so far it’s pretty obvious that Gordon and his dad don’t get along. In chapter eight, Gordon yells at his dad, “FUCK, GORD” and his dad replies, “YOU’RE NOT TOO BIG FOR ME TO . . . ” (97) before Gordon cuts him off again. Gordon’s disrespect for his father is clear; he doesn’t call his dad “dad” and interrupts his dad by yelling profanity at him. However, even though their relationship is rocky, I predict that they’ll make up and have a loving relationship before the end of the story. I think that Coady includes Gordon’s father in the story to show that not every teenager’s relationship with his or her parents is always smooth sailing. To me, this element of the story helps young reader’s relate to Gordon’s experience.
A lot of the things I picture while reading this book seem like they could be straight out of my life. When I read the multiple hockey rink scenes, I can’t help but think back to one of the hundreds of hockey rinks I’ve played at. I can almost smell the distinct arena smell when Coady describes Gordon’s rink visits. Also, characters like Mick Croft, a drug dealer who is expelled from school for kicking the teacher and the kind of guy Gordon would call a “punk” (40), makes me think back to all of the Mick’s I’ve seen hanging around ice rinks over the years. I picture him as a moderately tall skinny kid who wears a leather jacket and jeans, like the average drug dealer I’ve seen. Making mental pictures and links like this while I’m reading the book really helps me enjoy the story.
I think Coady geared her book towards readers who are young men around 18 because it explores issues that an 18-year-old young man still needs to learn about, such as how to talk to girls, get along with family, and navigate drugs and alcohol. Gordon’s life seems normal in so many ways; it mostly matches a typical young man’s high school life, aside from some of his problems. This makes Gordon a very relatable and believable character, leaving me excited to read more. If you haven’t read this book yet, you should start today!