The Pebble Champion

Young Adult - Coming of Age
188 Pages
Reviewed on 08/16/2018
Buy on Amazon

Author Biography

The Pebble Champion is a novel about dealing with grief, with guilt, with the pain of not having anyone to tell the truth to.

But it is also a story about finding ways to understand what it means to be alive, what it means to have inner strength and why, sometimes, it can be harder to hold on that to let go.

Author's note: This book is an attempt to capture the thoughts of a gay teenager immediately following the loss of a parent. It is an attempt to convey, in an authentic and very real way, the confusion, guilt and utter despair of someone who has lost the most important person in his life.

Although the subject matter deals with sadness, how this teenager emerges from this trying period provides an uplifting and life-affirming message for those who have lost a loved one.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite

A.D. Pritchard’s young adult novel, The Pebble Champion, tells the poignant story of fifteen-year-old Chris in the aftermath of surviving the car crash that killed his mother. Sent by Auntie Wendy to live on the Isle of Wight with the father he has never known, Chris takes solace in walks on the beach and an imaginary world where he becomes the pebble hopping champion. But Chris is wracked with grief and confusion that he was to blame for his mother’s death. Hiding his pain from new friends, Thane, Deidre and Evelyn, and his father hinders his healing and relationships. Is his hopelessness and bewilderment at life, love and relationships a normal teenage challenge or is he really condemned (by himself) to an existence of misery?

The Pebble Champion is beautifully and sensitively written and I very much enjoyed reading it. Author A.D. Pritchard really gets inside the minds and emotional states of his characters and conveys this to his readers perceptively and brilliantly. With believable characters, this is a well-structured story with lots of depth and pace, and I found it a page-turner from start to finish. I especially like the method of using flashbacks to very gradually reveal Chris’s past and the build up to the tragic accident. This is more than a story of one boy dealing with profound loss and grief; it is also very much about growing up/coming of age, finding who you really are, your talents, and allowing yourself to be that person. I feel the author captures Chris's inner world perfectly and with empathy - his anger, heartfelt guilt and despair, and fear of further losses.

The imagined “pebble hopping championships” mirror Chris’s real life growing ability to let go of the past as he slowly builds the emotional skills to begin to do this. Chris grows through his pain and eventually realizes that he must also be true to himself to be happy. I liked his friend Evelyn’s gift of an acorn and wise words that no matter how much it may wish to be an apple tree, “it will always be an acorn” (oak). So The Pebble Champion is a story about grief and guilt, empathy and self-compassion/acceptance. As such I’d especially recommend it to teenagers, particularly those struggling with loss, personal identity or other growing up issues. An author and book you'll be glad you discovered.

Jack Magnus

The Pebble Champion is a coming of age novel written by A.D. Pritchard. When the car Sarah Allstrong-Elliot and her son, Christopher, were travelling in suddenly went off the road and crashed, Sarah died and her fifteen-year-old son saw his life go up in flames. Investigators had been unable to figure what had happened to make the driver lose control of her vehicle, but Christopher knew and would have to deal with the guilt he felt for the rest of his life. Chris and his mum had been everything to each other, with the additional support of Sarah’s sister, Chris’s Aunt Wendy. Wendy had come to stay with Chris after he was released from the hospital, but now he was being shipped off to live with a father he hadn’t seen since he was five years old. The fifteen-year-old didn’t understand why he couldn’t just live with Aunt Wendy; this would have kept at least some aspects of his world intact, but his mom had expressly written that she wanted him to live with his dad if anything ever happened to her. And so, Chris would be leaving the next morning, with all his goods somehow packed into two bags. During breakfast the next morning, Aunt Wendy rattled on about how nice it would be to live on the shore, but Chris just wanted to stay there with her. All too soon, he was on the bus, and she was gone from his world. Odd how much could change in only a week’s time.

Wow. This is a stunner of a book. The Pebble Champion is a grand and glorious debut offering that had me smiling as I read and rueing the inevitable end of the story. I loved getting to know Marmaduke, Chris’s iconic and perceptive dad, and vicariously enjoyed every moment Chris spends out at the shore, including those suspense-filled moments as he competes in the Pebble Championships. Pritchard gets the loneliness Chris feels being gay and apart from the pairing off of his peers at school. He remembers the sting of rejection from his childhood friend after an innocent attempt to connect and fears similar rejections at his new school. Pritchard captures the added stresses and feelings of alienation that gay youths encounter in addition to those that accompany coming of age. The Pebble Champion is lyrical and beautifully written; Pritchard built a world that I just didn’t want to leave -- not for one moment. His characters fairly leap from the page and involve you in their lives, and it’s a grand thing to experience. Easily the best novel I’ve read in some time, The Pebble Champion is most highly recommended.

Faridah Nassozi

In The Pebble Champion by A.D. Pritchard, the death of a parent is the most painful experience, but even more so if you are a teenage boy experiencing survivor's guilt. Life gets even more complicated if you have to pack up and go start a new life with a father you barely know. That is exactly the situation 15-year-old Chris finds himself in as he moves to a new home, a new school and new friends while struggling to keep at bay the pain and emotions threatening to tear him apart. Even more, Chris has to understand and deal with his personal desires.

The Pebble Champion by A.D. Pritchard is an emotionally charged story. Chris's pain and confusion is very evident in his words, thoughts and actions. I could not help but hope and pray that something would soon change - anything to lessen his pain and give him a new beginning. No 15-year-old deserves to deal with all he was dealing with. I especially loved that the author let Chris tell the story in his own words, allowing him to bring more depth to the raw emotions. The flashbacks to happier times and the dreams take the reader even deeper into the pain and emotional turmoil inside Chris's head. This is a story about loss, pain, healing, new beginnings and sexuality, as navigated by a 15-year-old boy. You might want to keep some tissues on hand for times when you decide to give in to your emotions.

Lisa McCombs

Christopher awakes in a hospital following a devastating car accident, to find himself virtually an orphan. His mother is dead. His father is a mystery who abandoned him before any type of paternal bond could form. His Aunt Wendy is all he has left and she is secretly anxious to get on with her own life. But Aunt Wendy is comfort and that is all Christopher wants at this point. Discovering that his mother’s wishes are that Christopher reunite with his biological father, he is distraught with both confusion and further sadness. To go to a man of whom he has no memory and to live on the unfamiliar Isle of Wight are unacceptable ideas, but after fruitless begging Christopher knows in his heart that there is no other decision.

The Pebble Champion by A.D. Pritchard is a spectacular coming of age tale of a young boy who, through the insurmountable love of his recently deceased mother, learns to love his estranged father while understanding the reasons for the unexplained distance in that relationship. As Christopher admits failings and questions his existence, he is surrounded by an assortment of individuals who are unconditional in their concern for one another. Chris comes to terms with his mother’s death, learns of various levels of love, and accepts his destiny in The Pebble Champion. The many intricacies of this novel make it difficult to fully summarize the importance of this powerful story. Major themes of mortality, sexual indoctrination, domestic violence, and the innocence of youth demand more than a single reading. I am enamored with the creativity of A.D. Pritchard as he weaves this story in a combination of flashbacks and narration amid the existing tale. Interesting format.

Lit Amri

The Pebble Champion by Alan David Pritchard starts with tragic news. Thirty-six-year-old Sarah Allstrong-Elliot lost her life in a car accident. Her 15-year-old son, Christopher, survives. Now he has to move in with a father whom he hasn’t seen since he was five years old. Shanklin, the Isle of Wight is his new home. The transition is not easy, but Chris uses his imagination where he competes to become The Pebble Champion. With each pebble thrown, Chris deals with the past, present, and comes to term to his own sexuality.

Pritchard doesn’t simply give us a story of teenage angst. The Pebble Champion touches on a subject that we all can relate to-acceptance of change and oneself. The seaside town of Shanklin serves as a great setting to reflect the coping process of a teenager after losing a parent. The plot is character driven, and the characters are well fleshed out and have been given enough room to grow emotionally. The narrative transition from the present to the flashbacks are smooth and deftly done. Through Chris’s memories of his late mother, we learn about their strong bond as mother and son, and how the teen tries to cope mentally with her loss.

It’s hard not to sympathize further with Chris. When he arrives on the Isle of Wight, there’s an instant contradiction regarding the accurate spelling of his name, the boundaries of his father's work as an artist, while trying to hold back his feelings of homesickness and grief. Worse, he suffers from nightmares since the accident. Yet, I felt that he was dealing with these moments quite well, albeit not perfectly at times, as we follow his personal journey of handling change, relationships and sexuality. The Pebble Champion is a poignant story with sad, angry, funny, and triumphant moments, and I truly enjoyed it. It definitely has appeal for both YA and adult readers.