Monday, June 20, 2005

Whale Talk ****1/2

Crutcher, Chris. Whale Talk.

I have always liked everything Chris Crutcher has written, and this is no exception. T.J. was a swimmer when he was younger, but he has spent his entire high school career avoiding getting involved in sports and extra-curricular activities, despite his natural ability. His favorite teacher, Mr. Simet asks him to join the newly formed swim team, he agrees. He then helps Mr. Simet recruit swimmers for the team. Have I mentioned here that the school doesn't have a pool?

TJ is mixed-- white, black, and Japanese. He manages to bring together a very different group of people that can't swim and sets the goal that they will all get letter jackets, which is highly prized at the school. The school bully, Mike Barbour, would be annoyed if anyone on the swim team got a jacket, so this fuels TJ's goal. Along the way, these unlikely teammates become friends and swimmers, against all odds.

There is another side-story in which a local racist (a friend of Mike Barbour) is abusing his girlfriend, who happens to have a bi-racial child that he also mistreats because of her race. TJ's parents allow her to stay at their home to stay away from him, but she has a hard time staying away from him, and the damage her daughter sustains gets worse every time he tells her she is dirty because she is part black.

Overall, this is a great book. The characters are all likable, except for the ones that you aren't supposed to like like Mike Barbour. The reader gets to like each of the guys on the team. You can see part of the ending coming from a mile away, but it is still enjoyable getting there. There is also a surprise at the end that readers won't see coming until they get there. Highly recommended!

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