To Be The Best by H.L. Hertel
2017 Red City Review Books Awards Winner for Best Characters
A short novel that follows two brothers in the heartland of America as they succeed and fail in the sport of wrestling, To Be The Best is a tale about brotherhood, sports, and what it means to become a man. The narrative follows the Castle brothers, Ron and Nick as they navigate the lanes of high school life. The boys grew up watching wrestling matches at Riverside High School, always dreaming that one day it would be them who would be showing their strength out there on the mat, and now, that day has arrived. Ron is a talented wrestler who makes it to the state championships during his sophomore year, gaining recognition from his school, the town, and across the state. Younger brother Nick struggles in Ron’s shadow, trying his best to show his own potential while aiming to escape his brother’s overpowering reputation. The novel follows the two young men as they learn and grow, Ron choosing to take his own path as he tackles obstacles, while Nick accepts the help of Sean MacCallister, the young assistant coach who guides him on his journey, all the while trying to move past his own troubled past.
With brief chapters that result in a fast-paced story that will keep you intrigued, To Be The Best is a poignant coming of age tale that shows how difficult it can be to live in the shadow of your sibling. Even though Ron and Nick have similar dreams, they are very different and go about achieving their goals in rather dissimilar ways. The characters are painted in detail, and it will be easy for readers to relate to both of the boys as they make their way through the novel, overcoming challenges and facing their fears. The writing is straightforward, and at times could use further embellishments to richen the various plot lines even more, but overall the prose is constructed in a reader-friendly manner that pairs well with the narrative. This book is sure to appeal to high school wrestling fans, brothers, and anyone who likes a good coming of age story between siblings.
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