T. J. Jones is a smart young man. He lives with his wonderfully supportive adoptive parents, has the perfect girlfriend, and plays some mean basketball. It has taken him a long time to get to a place in his life where he can say he is happy though. It still takes a lot of self-control to suppress his anger because unfortunately, he lives in a town where people aren’t exactly open-minded. As part African-American he faces daily racism from some of the Good Ol’ Boys in town. He particularly has trouble with the star football player.
When T.J. is approached by one of his teachers to join the swim team he is confused. Cutter High School doesn’t have a swim team. It turns out the teacher wants him to start the team and help him recruit other swimmers. T.J. decides to do it, if nothing else, to spite the school athletics group. T.J. is determined to get his swim team to perform well enough during the season so they can all qualify for letter jackets. The group of misfits he convinces to join the team turn out to need a lot more than a letter jacket – they need friendship.
Chris Crutcher packs in so many emotions in this story that you can’t help but be sucked into it. He uses his wealth of experience to weave together a complex story of love and the true meaning of family. I listened to WHALE TALK on audio and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The narrator did a fantastic job. This is one of the classics of young adult literature. If you haven’t read it yet, now is the time.