One Good Punch
By Rich Wallace
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright © 2007
Scranton, Pennsylvania used to be one of the richest cities in America, but it has been on a steady decline since the coal mines shut down. It has never collapsed and it isn’t the worst place to be from, it’s just not the best. The city has been talking for years about urban renewal, but it always seems to take 7 steps forward and then 6 steps back. It could be worse though, at least it is moving forward.
This is the town that Michael Kerrigan lives in. He is an 18 year old senior in high school, captain of the track team, and an editorial assistant at the Scranton observer. He wants to be a writer and a track star. His senior year is already half over and he is hoping to go to a college with a good track & field program. Many of the students in his class are going to college and never coming back to Scranton, or they are just going to go straight to the factories after graduation. Michael is definitely going to college, but he doesn’t necessarily want to leave Scranton for good. In a strange way he loves the city.
Michael’s dreams are going to be dashed in a way he never imagined though. One seemingly small mistake is going to, at the very least, delay his track and college career. The trouble is that he could make it all go away by telling everyone what they want to hear. Michael is caught between a rock and the truth.
While Michael’s story in “One Good Punch” reads somewhat like an anti-drug after school special, I liked it because it accurately depicts what can happen when a person with much opportunity makes a stupid decision. It is also a story of perseverance. Michael has the choice of letting his decision knock him out or getting up for another round. A brief conversation with an unknown ex-boxer drives this thought home. When this moral is revealed the story suddenly seems aptly set against the backdrop of a city that refuses to die. This is a quality book that is well written and very engaging.