Book review: ‘One Good Punch’ |

Book review: ‘One Good Punch’

Andrew Fersch
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” It’s true ” one good punch can ruin a boxer’s career. Maybe a little too much brain damage, maybe some sort of break or busted vessel, many different things can happen. Chances are that one good punch will sneak up on them ” they won’t see it coming and they certainly won’t walk directly into it as Michael Kerrigan does in “One Good Punch.”

It’s rare that a book offers up absolutely no surprises, and especially disappointing when a book is trying to deal with an issue as valuable as the one dealt with in author Rich Wallace’s most recent release. The books follows the semi-charmed life of senior Michael Kerrigan, who has a good job writing obituaries for the local newspaper, is the captain of the school’s track team (who has a shot at winning state’s for the relay), gets pretty good grades, and has a good female friend who throws herself at him throughout the story. Unfortunately “One Good Punch” is one weak jab after another.

When Kerrigan’s semi-troubled drug-dealing childhood friend Joseph Onager gives him four joints he had asked for inside school rather than outside of school, it’s pretty clear that one of the “random drug searches” that’s talked about at the beginning of the book is going to happen. From that point on, it is no surprise that Kerrigan gets in a great deal of trouble and has to decide whether he should try to place blame on his friend instead of taking it himself.

This is a classic teenage dilemma. You have a friend who didn’t necessarily make all the same good choices that you did, yet you’re not perfect either. They help you do something wrong (in this case, buy drugs at school) and when you get caught, they threaten you by saying you better not rat on them. And it’s such a dilemma because of how we are all raised. Remember the high school gym teacher who scolded you for telling on the boy that was punching you in the locker room? How about the girl who was terrorizing the quiet, awkward girl in your class and threatened that she would make your life miserable if you told on her? The world is half filled with people who care nothing about truth and justice, and only care about the idiotic idea of not “ratting” on people.

Few books deal with this quandary eloquently, and “One Good Punch” certainly isn’t one of them. Wallace was obsessed with sports growing up and eventually became a sports writer, so chances are he ended up being around more of those gym teacher types who taught him that the right thing isn’t important if it entails tattling.

Kerrigan’s reasoning for his actions is typical teenage logic, and in that, Wallace did a good job making it realistic, but it’s also foolish and embarrassing and certainly not the lesson that we should be teaching children. Even the aspects of it that are realistic are overshadowed by goofy cliches of Onager’s abusive, drunk father and the administration at the high school, who are friendly to the athlete and unfriendly to the outcast.

So, while one good punch may sneak up on and end the career of a boxer, in “One Good Punch,” there is no discernable end or real lesson learned. What could have been a knockout ended up missing the mark.

Andrew Fersch writes weekly book reviews for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments about this review to

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