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The Front Runner: A Novel

The Front Runner - Patricia Nell Warren I’ve wanted to read this book since I first heard about it a year or so ago. Actually, I got really close once, found it at the library, but returned it without opening it. Last week, after reading two depressing books in a row, I decided to finally find this book and just start. I thought the story about a runner and his coach in love would be just what I needed to get me out of, what I call, a ‘book-sorrowful state’. I was right about one thing: the story is about the love between a runner and his coach. The rest though … If you’ve read the book, you know what surprise was waiting for me (and you’re probably laughing at my bad luck).Before I get ahead of myself, let’s start with a synopsis. This book is about Harlan Brown, a bitter coach who’s gay. He is down on his luck – his dream of running in the Olympic Games has long been thwarted and he has lost his position as a coach in one of the best universities because of rumors of him being gay started spreading. In comes 3 young runners, Billy, Vince and Jacques – they’re brilliant, well-known in the amateur running-world and also gay. Harlan falls in love with Billy’s self-confidence and personality, though he fights the attraction with teeth and nails. Billy dreams of The Olympic Games and Harlan helps him toward that goal. It feels almost impossible, since homosexuality is not accepted in the sports world and many want to stop Billy’s way to Montreal before it even begins.Well, I liked this book. The story gripped me from the start and I fell for Billy. He’s a character I don’t usually see in fiction – he knows what he wants and who he is and isn’t ashamed of his wants and faults. He was my favourite character all the way through. Harlan, on the other hand, is completely different. He’s strong, but keeps himself guarded. He also has a very biased view of the world. His comments about women especially are very hateful. But as he changed throughout the book, I found myself warming up to him a little bit. The other characters are great too, especially Vince. I like how protective he is of his friends.The ending destroyed me. I cried, and cried, and cried. I don’t know if I liked the ending or if I feel cheated by it. Maybe both. Billy’s death served the purpose of showing the reader how far people can go when they follow their hatred and ignorance. But I’m tired of seeing those people win all the time. I think a different ending, with Billy winning would’ve been more effective. But maybe this ending was the only ending that could’ve work at the time it was written, I don’t know.I liked the book over-all. I just feel emotionally manipulated by the author.