Gym Candy Summary

Carl Deuker

Gym Candy

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Gym Candy Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Gym Candy by Carl Deuker.

Gym Candy explores father-son relationships, pressure to succeed, and substance abuse through the tale of a young footballer who starts abusing steroids. It begins with protagonist Mick Johnson recalling his early relationship with his father, Mike, an ex-NFL player. Mike always pressured his son to excel at football, and Mick did so, practicing hard and loving the sport because it was challenging and rewarding. His vision of his father as a sporting hero who would have gone all the way if he had not injured his ankle is part of what kept him keen and dedicated. However, when he learns that his father was kicked off his team for drunk driving, missing training, and fighting with teammates, he is devastated his father lied to him about the injury and is not the hero he thought he was. He feels increased pressure to succeed where his father failed, so he practices extra hard.

Mick’s practice pays off, and he is invited to try out for the varsity team. He succeeds, along with best friend, Drew, and another friend, DeShawn. When members of the first team are caught drinking, Mick and Drew get to play in the first team. However, they lose their first match, and Mick berates himself for missing a final touchdown even though Drew and DeShawn say the failure is not his fault because the opposition are rumored to be steroid abusers. Mr. Downs, their old coach, leaves and is replaced by Mr. Carlson, but before he goes, he tells Mick to get bigger and stronger. After his sixteenth birthday, Mick gets his driving license, and his father begins teaching him how to fire a gun, bringing extra responsibility into his life. When his father gives him a jeep, Mick lives up to this responsibility by refusing to drive it through a creek even when Drew and DeShawn encourage him to do so.

Back at school, Mick follows Mr. Downs’s advice and begins doing weights at the gym. He also starts taking vitamin supplements and drinking protein shakes. Mick and Drew visit a gym called Popeye’s but decide not to go back because they think the trainer, Peter Volz, might be homosexual. However, when none of his teammates help when Mick is beaten up by older boys, he feels betrayed and decides to go back to Popeye’s rather than training with them in the school gym. After finding out that Peter Volz is not gay, Mick starts to view him as an older brother. When Peter says he can get steroids, Mick initially turns him down but later, worried about staying on the team, he changes his mind, and Peter starts selling him the drugs.

Peter warns Mick that steroids can have physical and emotional side effects, including anger, depression, and growing breasts but, at first, Mick only has positive results, finding it easier to bulk up and work out. However, when he attacks a friend who accidently bumps into him, Mick begins to understand the warning about mood swings. He finds himself angry a lot of the time and becomes increasingly isolated from his friends and family. He also gets terrible acne and starts developing breasts. When he asks Peter why he does not suffer the same side effects, Peter tells him that he only uses “stack injections,” which contain a mixture of drugs and do not cause the same negative results. Later, Mick goes swimming with friends, including Kaylee, a girl he likes, and is mortified when they see his breasts and acne. This almost makes him stop taking steroids, but he feels he needs them in order to succeed, so he starts buying extremely expensive stack injections from Peter instead.

After he turns down an offer to go swimming again, Mick feels momentarily depressed, thinking he has lost his friends and missed his chance with Kaylee. However, this feeling passes as soon as he plays football. After a match, still full of adrenaline after impressing his teammates and coach with his new strength and speed, Mick goes speeding and “off-roading” in his jeep. Later, he begins to feel like a cheat and decides to stop using stack injections. However, he finds that he cannot control his moods and is showing signs of withdrawal from the drugs, which cause him to miss a volleyball game that Kaylee is playing. He stays off the stack injections and manages to still do well at football. Even so, he has to lie to the team’s trainer to cover his tracks about using steroids. Worse, when a younger player threatens his position in the team, he cracks and injects a mix of steroids and amphetamines called XTR, which helps him win the match for his team but stops him sleeping.

Mick continues using XTR and grows increasingly paranoid and moody. He is sent off for fouling another player and banned for one match, although he tells his parents that he has an ankle injury—the same lie his father used. Later, before a key match, Drew asks Mick why he is taking his bag to the bathroom, making Mick miss his opportunity to inject XTR, but Mick finds that he is able to win the match for his team without the drug. However, when the team celebrate afterwards, Drew does not seem as upbeat as everyone else. Later, Mick cannot find his XTR injection kit. Drew confronts him about his drug use, calling him a cheat and saying that the team does not deserve its victories. Faced with this, Mick becomes unstable and paranoid and attempts suicide with his father’s gun. The gun misfires and Mick survives, ending up in a rehabilitation center, with a Bible his mother gives him to help rebuild his sense of right and wrong. As the novel closes, Mick hopes to return to football one day, but knows that he will always have a terrible desire to take drugs.