Whale TalkWhale Talk by Chris Crutcher
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

this is the last of the “banned books” lot. i liked it more than i thought i would, and i think i liked it more than this three-star cat indicates, but i am somehow unable to give it a four. because this star cat-rating system is just too scientific and important, right?

i almost didn’t read this one. i read what it was about—an all-boy swim team called the mermen who are social misfits but who bond together on their long bus trips where they share their secrets and learn to trust one another and learn the meaning of—no, stop right there. not interested. i already read the outsiders…i decided, since we only had to read two of the titles, that this would be the one of the six i would not read. but then it just became like the other shoe, the one untried door in the hallway. so i read the damn thing.

and it is actually pretty good.

it is about all the above things, but it is also about the main character—a racial potpourri, living in whitetown usa, where everything in the town, not just the microcosm of the high school, revolves around high school athletics. and letter jackets. and this other poor sad kid, made brain-slow through abuse, wearing his dead older brother’s letter jacket, and the thugs who terrorize him because of it, because it reflects poorly on the Institution of the Letter Jacket to have a ‘tard in one. so, t.j. (his given name is “the tao jones” (yes, his first name is actually “the”) because of his adoptive hippie mom and biker dad—it is very quirky, but for some reason this only annoys me a squitch). so but t.j. gets pissed and decides to start a swim team, because he is already this amazing athlete who refuses to play organized sports, but excels in every pick-up and neighborhood sport he plays. to the school-at-large, he is already an outsider because of race and refusal to join the sporting ranks, and he decides it would be funny to gather as many other outsiders and picked-on kids as possible and start this bad news bears type of swim team, and rig it so everyone gets letter jackets. wheeee!

so it ends up being the breakfast club but in speedos: fat kid, one legged angry kid, genius kid, unnoticed kid, bodybuilding kid, etc. and as a teen inspirational thing, it works really well—it has all the elements, and it does its job nicely.

but then: subplots! backstories! it becomes more complicated, and very heavily focused on t.j. and his rage issues and his adoptive father’s seeecrets. still all good, but not a local-losers-made good story, entirely. it does have all the stand by me round the campfire stuff, but it is sweet, really. and not just because my brain is currently bludgeoned with information-retrieval information from my studying (yes, this review is procrastination)

i thought the split between the two stories was very good, pacing and distribution-wise. i was equally interested in both storylines, and i thought the ending was good and unexpected, and theatrical, yes, but effective at least.

marie, you should totally read it.

read my book reviews on goodreads

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