A Lucy Review: Big Man by Matthew J. Metzger

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Rated 4 stars out of 5

Max comes from a family of Naval officers and he wants nothing more than to continue that legacy and join the Navy.  In reality, he’s bullied so often and so badly at school that now all he wants is to make it out of there alive.  When his mother’s fiancé, Aunt Donna, decides enough is enough after Max is kicked so hard in the head by a bully that he ends up in the hospital she calls in a favor and gets Max set up with Muay Thai boxing classes.  Aunt Donna knows what she is talking about, being a victim of bashing herself.  While Max is against this with all the power a 15-year-old can muster, Aunt Donna has made it very clear that without the classes Max will lose out on the job in her shop and will need to continue two more years of school.  He’s stuck.  So he sucks it up and goes.  He’s mortified, because being overweight makes physical things difficult and even worse, Max is confronted with his first real crush, his sparring partner and the nephew of his boxing coach, Cian. 

Cian is fearless, fearsome, blunt and bold.  I loved him, even as I knew what it must have taken for him to get to that attitude.  He is fit and in amazing shape but he never makes Max feel like he is anything less than worthy of being there.  Lewis, the coach, is the same.  Aunt Donna had shared the reason behind Max needing the lessons but there is no pity here, just acceptance that this is who you are and Muay Thai is what you are there to do.   Beautiful sparring partner?  Bonus both in embarrassment factor and joy factor.

Where even to begin with this.   We start off right away with a serious attack on Max.  The bullying was so difficult to read, more so because you know that there are so many kids out there going through the same thing,  whether for being overweight, gay, too smart, not smart enough – just anything that makes them different.   In Matthew’s case,  the bullying has resulted in some serious self-loathing, which again, I found to be realistic.   He’s come to be ashamed of who he is because of those angry, bigoted classmates.  It was heartbreaking.  Now, since he was actually put in the hospital by the bullies, Aunt Donna has had enough.   She can come across as too blunt sometimes, but she is all about having that boy’s back and making sure he knows how to defend himself so that he won’t have to.  I also appreciated that while Mom had married and loved Max’s dad, the fact that she was now in love and marrying a woman wasn’t a huge deal – it was just mom in love. 

When he realizes Cian is who he’s working with, you can feel the conflicting emotions from him.  Here’s this amazing person, badass, fit, tough, who is about to see him be physical and sweaty.  You have to remember also – this is a YA book.  Max is fifteen.  It’s been quite a while since I was fifteen but the shadows of those years never leaves you and that clawing need to be part of something, to not stand out in case you are the focus of something negative, stays.  It was one of the reasons I was so happy to see Max progress from the thoughts of “useless lump” to a badass in his own right who knows when to elbow jab to defend himself.  He has the most negative thoughts about himself and has no confidence that he can do what he sets out to do. 

While some of his better view can be attributed to his new friend in Cian (and that takes a while) more of it is due to the martial arts and how knowing you can keep yourself safe will improve your confidence.  And Lewis.  “You could really be something, Max,” Lewis said quietly, “and the only person standing in the way is you.”  Max has spent so much time being put down and belittled that it’s hard to believe anything else.   

Cian – let’s just give him a shout out now.  He’s been through things just like Max has and has come out confident and showing exactly what he needs to.   “If you ever call me anything but a boy, or he, or him, or call those facts into question, I’ll hit you.”    His conversation with Cian about grappling really just hurt my heart.  And Cian’s response to it, “When you strip away the self-loathing….There’s somebody beautiful.  Right. Here.”   Ahh, it was a catch your breath moment.  The romance here is between teenagers and it was true to that – I didn’t feel these were older adults talking and just giving lip service to being in high school.

Things, of course, aren’t just easy after that because there are still nasty people in the world who get even nastier when they face consequences for what they have done.  The retaliation from the evil three bullies, especially Tom, was awful and I kept thinking, will it ever stop for this boy?  Max has the support of adults, including his teacher Mrs Pellow, but that isn’t enough to avoid it.  So when he finally has had enough, I wanted to stand up and cheer.   The epilogue was sweet and I enjoyed it, but the end of the chapter before was, in my head, perfection.  Way to go, Big Guy.

The cover art by Natasha Snow doesn’t give you a visual of Max or Cian and I liked that.  It is instead a beautiful view of the water with footsteps leading to the edge.  I read a lot into that cover.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published April 9th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781948608381
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Big Man by Matthew J. Metzger

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

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.

Big Man is my first novel by Matthew J. Metzger that I can find.  It will definitely not be my last.  Big Man is an incredibly moving, deeply impactful story.  It recounts one young man’s journey from a state of intense poor self esteem, wanting to hide within the walls of his home due to bullying and his body hatred, to one of happiness, pride, and ability to move forward in life.

It is not always an easy story, especially since the voice is Max’s and as we meet him he’s a beleaguered young man under attack at school.  The bullies there are relentless, having just put him into the hospital again.  The reader gets the raw account of this very attack right down to the moment he blacks out from Max’s perspective and it so painful.  Trust me when I say parts of this book are very difficult to read as it must be for those who are actually bullied.  You can actually feel Max’s fear when those three boys approach him.  It’s visceral in its ability to churn your stomach and his.

You see Max is a big, gentle man. Read that to be obese as well as large period.  He’s called Fatso Farrier at school by the bullies and that name has become ingrained in his mind and soul to the point he can’t move past it.  There are other major transitions as well in his life.  His beloved grandfather, who stood in for his dad who died with he was a toddler, has passed.  They recently moved into his ‘Aunt Donna’s’ house. His mother is happily remarrying… his ‘Aunt Donna’ (not that he has a problem with that, he doesn’t), and he needs to decide his future if he is going back to school for 2 more years.  So much on Max at the moment that he’s caught in stasis.

I’m debating saying more here because later in the story so much becomes clear to Max and to the reader at an important juncture.  If you are familiar with people fighting with  poor body image and/or issues with weight, some may be aware of some of the emotional factors that go along with them.  Here those factors are gently clued in, one by one until finally we get the entire package that is Max Farrier, past, present and, yes, future.

I will say that the author seems familiar with these issues and treats Max with sensitivity and compassion while sort of coming at it sideways.  By that I mean, Max (and the reader) isn’t seeing the whole picture right up until the end.  We are Max.  We don’t notice things changing until others tell us.  It’s a format that works here beautifully.

One of the ‘people’ telling Max things?  His boyfriend Cian.  I have no intention of spoiling that wonderful aspect of this story. I’ll just say that character and storyline is an absolute joy. In fact, one of the things about this story is families. What makes a family, finding and creating families.  And the love that  binds them together.  This story is full of that.  Max survives because of that, and lives to become the person he was always meant to be. Someone magnificent.  A Big Man.  Don’t miss out on this story.  It’s heartbreakingly wonderful in all the best ways.

Yes, it’s one I highly recommend.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  The  ocean is an important element for Max and the story but I wish somehow the cover was different to reflect how amazing this novel was.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published April 9th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781948608381
Edition LanguageEnglish

New Release Blitz for Big Man by Matthew J. Metzger (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Big Man

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 9, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 58100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, contemporary, YA, coming-of-age, bisexual, trans, high school, sports/martial arts, depression/grieving, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Big Man
Matthew J. Metzger © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
This was how everything started—on a Friday afternoon, at the very end of school, three days into the summer term and in the middle of an unreasonable, unseasonable heatwave. It had been a Friday like any other until Tom Fallowfield stuck his boot in.

Literally.

It went a bit like this, to Max’s admittedly patchy memory of the entire incident.

At three thirty-one, the bell rang, and he was dismissed out of his maths class. Friday was a notorious day for people being bored and at a loose end, so Max had (as was his habit) hurried off to his locker to try to get out of school before anyone caught up to him.

At three thirty-six, Max reached his locker. His fingers fumbled with the lock in a hurry, the metal loose in his grip because it was so ridiculously hot. Sweat was dampening the hair at his temples.

At three thirty-eight, his fingers slipped on the waxy cover of his geography textbook and sent the whole pile tumbling to the floor.

And at three thirty-eight and a half, a dirty Adidas trainer pressed down on said textbook just as Max reached for it.

That was kind of when Max knew he was a bit fucked.

“All right, Fatso?”

He didn’t have to look up. The trainer narrowed it down to one of two people who would stomp on the textbook he was trying to pick up, and the deep, drawling voice—like some villain out of a film—narrowed it down to one. Jazz Coles. And Jazz Coles was bad news.

Max swallowed convulsively and gathered the rest of his things to his chest protectively. He staggered back to his feet and turned to shove them all back in his locker. His hands were shaking. There was sweat breaking out on the backs of his thighs and under his arms, pooling in the joints and fleshy bits.

“Oi. You gone deaf, Fatso? All that grease clogged your ears?”

“M’just in a hurry, Jazz,” he mumbled.

“You what?”

“I said I’m just in a hurry,” he said a bit louder and squashed his other books into the locker haphazardly. The corridor was slowly emptying, and the emptier it got, the faster his heart was beating.

“You’re fucking rude, you are. You ought to look at someone when he’s talking to you. You want Tom to teach you some manners? Tom’s good with manners.”

“Sorry,” Max mumbled, turning hastily before the threat could be carried out. The metal of his locker bit uncomfortably into his back, pressing grooves into his skin, and he could feel his shirt beginning to stick to him. “I’m in a rush, that’s all.”

All three of them were there. Jazz Coles, Aidan Hooper, and Tom Fallowfield. Fallowfield was in Max’s year, the other two the year above. They went to some football club or something together—Max wasn’t sure. All he knew was that Jazz was the clever one, with the orders and the insults, while Aidan was the sidekick who screeched like a hyena and kept them supplied in fags and weed on a regular basis from his older brother’s grow. And Tom…

Tom was the dangerous one. When the insults stopped, Tom started. And nobody wanted Tom to start anything.

“Not got time to talk to us, then?” Jazz drawled. “Why’s that? You busy?”

“I—yes. Yes, just busy, that’s all, busy weekend…”

“Busy doing what? Got a new girlfriend?”

Tom snorted. Aidan cackled and said, “Eurgh, Jazz, man, I’ll bring up my lunch.”

“Imagine that sweaty sack of lard slithering and grunting on some poor girl. You’d crush her, wouldn’t you, Farrier?”

Max’s face heated up, and his hair stuck to his scalp. He could faintly smell his own underarms, and the metal gluing shirt to back was beginning to heat up too, at Jazz’s cool, slow delivery.

“Fatso Farrier, the flat-fucker. ’Cause that’s what she’d be once you were done. Best stick to boys, yeah? Let your boyfriend fuck you, then nobody’ll suffocate.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend.”

“Would you like one?”

“I—no, I, uh—”

“Just as well,” Jazz continued blithely. “Nobody has a drowning-in-folds fetish. So if it’s not a girlfriend or a boyfriend with some sick kinks, why’re you too busy to talk to us?”

The corridor was empty. Max started to panic.

“Answer me, Farrier!”

“I—just—plans, you know, plans…”

“What plans? Sale on at Greggs?” Jazz asked. “New bakery opened up? Or is Mummy taking pity on her lonely little wobblebottom, and baked you a chocolate cake?”

Aidan gave a whooping cackle, and Jazz kicked the forgotten geography book towards Max. It skittered across the dusty floor, hitting Max’s shoe with a dull thump.

“Best not leave that here,” Jazz said. Hands in his pockets, pale face regarding him through narrowed blue eyes, he looked calculating—and Max couldn’t figure out what he was calculating. “Oi! Fatso! Pick it up, then.”

“Thank you,” Max mumbled, hoping it would buy him a bit of a reprieve from…whatever Jazz was planning, and stooped to pick it up. His fingers scrabbled uselessly on the plastic cover, wet with anxiety.

“Thank you?” Jazz echoed. “Very polite, Fatso. Might want to make it sound fucking sincere next time.”

“Here, Jazz, fancy a game?”

That deep rumble was the only warning Max got before Tom’s boot—because of course Tom, totally mad, sadistic Tom Fallowfield, wore boots to school on a regular basis—connected with the side of his head.

Hard.

Max would have liked to say that pain exploded in his head, that he saw visions of God or heard the heavenly choir, that it was like dropping into a Tim Burton movie.

Actually, he just heard a massive bang.

And then he woke up in the back of an ambulance and knew he was in deep shit.

That was how it started.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

Website | Twitter

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