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Whale Talk

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  9,009 Ratings  ·  788 Reviews
There's bad news and good news about the Cutter High School swim team. The bad news is that they don't have a pool. The good news is that only one of them can swim anyway. A group of misfits brought together by T. J. Jones (the J is redundant), the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to find their places in a school that has no place for them. T.J. is convinced that a varsity ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 10th 2002 by Laurel Leaf (first published April 10th 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Oct 24, 2010 karen rated it really liked it
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 indicates, but i am somehow unable to give it a four. because this star-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
Wendy F
Wonderful! 4.5 stars!

Maybe it's the person inside me who hates athletics, but loves inspiring athletic movies? I mean, who doesn't get weepy when watching Remember the Titans, or who isn't a shameless Varsity Blues fan! Rudy? Radio? MIGHTY DUCKS! Bad News Bears... I could go on and on, I love them so much. I love them almost as much as dance movies. Bring on the 'Not another Sports Movie' parody! I'll be there, because I've just about seen 'em all! I mean, they're so much fun and they feel so go
Jessica Abarquez
Feb 19, 2008 Jessica Abarquez rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 20, 2015 Robin rated it it was ok
Interesting story, but way too much happening in it. There is more than one book included in this one book. While it intrigued me and kept me reading, I felt like the author was tackling too much within the pages of this one book. I couldn't decide what the major theme was because there were so many from which to choose. Very strong language was included throughout the book. In addition, difficult topics were addressed including domestic violence, child abuse, racism, intense bullying, sexual re ...more
May 29, 2009 Evan rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Finished. Some language, lots of dialogue by the author that clearly belies that the's a therapist. In fact the whole story is mostly a tale of an abusive, racist man harassing his ex and her kids and the family that protects them against the backdrop of a sports story. The sports aspect of the story is fairly original. In order to help out a mentally challenged kids being bullied for wearing his dead brother's letter jacket, the protagonist, an athletic multiracial adopted boy (these details ar ...more
T.J. is a natural born athlete but due to his background has a problem with authority and refuses to play team sports at his sports crazed high school. That is, until he hatches a plan to start a swim team of rejects and to get the whole team varsity letter jackets. Showing the jock centered power structure of the school what it really means to be sportsmen.

This is another of Chris Crutcher's fast paced well-written sports centered novels that skillfully melds sporting endeavors with serious so
May 24, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: to-read-again
While this book includes great issues that no doubt need to be addressed in young adult literature, I felt it lacked something more important: a believable and relatable main character. We felt that TJ was painted as an aloof but successful and sometimes over-zealous youth but came off more like a pretentious snob. What he did for the lesser characters in the novel was generous but his motives were a little off-putting and he spoke too highly of himself frequently. The rest of the characters see ...more
Heidi (Yup. Still here.)
What a great book about the power of friendship and the human spirit. It is rare to find smart and honest YA books out there about real everyday issues that are often overlooked or not talked about. I loved the mix of humor and truth in this book and found myself really rooting for this rag tag group of young men. TJ is an awesome protagonist and his father is quite possibly one of the best YA fathers I have ever met. (view spoiler) ...more
Sep 08, 2011 K.Butler rated it it was amazing
This book has a terrible cover and a less than inspiring teaser on the jacket. Now did this ever get picked up by any reader? Luckily, somebody read and I found it on a list of best books. I was blown away with how much I enjoyed the main character, TJ, and his band of misfit swimmers. The story is told from the clever TJ with his biting intelligence. I'm all about underdogs, and this is the best underdog story I've read in a long time! Read it!
May 28, 2010 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
I tend to really enjoy YA novels, but Crutcher's leave me with the feeling that really good literature does: that the book is pure entertainment, and at the same time something far more universal than that.

This is the second of his books that I've enjoyed. He draws you in with wit and humor, and then moves into more important territory, and you're caught by the feeling that he has Something Important to Say. And he does. He says it plainly and beautifully and the wisdom he has gained about life
Maximillian Jackson
Oct 04, 2011 Maximillian Jackson rated it liked it
Shelves: english-412
When you start reading Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, you might take the wonderful humor and cynicism of the main character, T.J., as a sign that this is going to be the usual coming-of-age, snarky-teen-protagonist tale common in YAL. The guy is named “The Tao Jones” for Pete’s sake; the jokes practically write themselves. However, some readers might glance over the very heavy and heart-wrenching back-story of T.J. because of his humor, but his tragedy is a better foreshadowing of the themes of t ...more
Aug 12, 2012 Isamlq rated it really liked it
This book makes my makes my month after a series of bore-me-brainless, I’ve-read-you-before reads. WHALE TALK is most definitely a favorite. It’s sweet and deep; smart and funny… and then ends on this ache-y note. I love love love so many things in it:

First,that it’s all about the underdog, because those? There were many here. Most of them have a sadness to share, but despite that (because of that?) there’s this bond that’s built up slowly… so, I found that a sweet progression. Second, that th
Apr 22, 2015 Magpie67 rated it it was amazing
I read this book several years ago when I saw an article in a local paper of a girl who didn't want to read it for her English class due to language. I had never heard of the book before and so my interest was piqued because I dislike censorship. This child was trying to get it banned based on language that I'm quite sure she heard everyday in the hallway of her high school.... Seriously..

I did enjoy the book very much and I loved the swim team aspect. I'm a swimmer and both my children have be
Jul 19, 2008 Daria rated it it was amazing
Another of my fave books! T.J. Jones is an adopted, racially-mixed senior living in a small town in Washington. Though very athletically gifted, he refuses to join any organized school sports because of the almost "God-like" treatment received by the jocks. When his favorite English teacher Mr. Simet ask T.J. to join a swim team (despite the fact that the school does not have a pool), T.J. sees an opportunity to infuriate the jocks by putting together a motley group of misfit swimmers. T.J. lear ...more
May 09, 2011 Monika rated it really liked it
A good, thought-provoking, quick read. There is one event in this book that I swear will haunt me forever...but I wont spoil it...
Beau Hogan
This book follows the season of a high school swim team, and centers around the main character, T.J. Jones. T.J. is the only member on the team who has any swim experience, so multiple shenanigans ensue as a result. I liked the plot revolving around T.J.'s personal life. It is an eternal vortex of let downs, so I could relate to it. I did not like the fact that it didn't make abuse look as bad as it could have looked. I would recommend this book to my friends if my friends were athletes. Thank ...more
Jun 29, 2011 Igomigo1 rated it it was amazing
Whale talk has become a personal favorite, an inspirational story between discrimination, racism, and athletic hardships. The Tao Jones is such a heroic figure, everything about this book must be read! This is not only just a book to read because you were lying in bed bored of life, this is a book where you can relate human society into and become involve in T.J's heroic actions, and his determination. This book is a place where your feelings can be shared with, and you can agree without being h ...more
Apr 02, 2013 Allison rated it really liked it
Allison Freeman

APA Citation:

Crutcher, C. (2002). Whale Talk. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf.

Genre: Sports, Realistic Fiction

Format: Print

Selection Process: School Library Journal review

Adams, L. (2001). Whale Talk. Horn Book Magazine, 77(3), 320-321.


T. J. (The Tao) Jones is an adopted, talented mixed-race athlete living in a small town in the Northwest. He attends high school at Cutter High School where most of the athletes are arrogant and more concerned with winning then athleticism, includ
Dec 20, 2008 Ashley rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that sticks with you, characters and circumstances refusing to turn loose of your thoughts and emotions months after you stop reading about them. Things start out innocently when super-talented (athletically and intellectually) T.J. agrees to bail out a favorite teacher by throwing together a swim team. He also sees the team as a way to give the nasty jock contingent at his school the finger by recruiting misfits and helping them to earn letter jackets.

T.J.'s got plen
Oct 04, 2009 Lori rated it it was amazing
Just finished this book awesome book. The story is heart wrenching. It took me a while - 50 pages - to get into it, but it came highly recommended. My sophomores will read this during this school year. It explores many issues like child abuse, abuse of women and violence towards others. The setting is a high school where there is always abuse.

There is a line in the book that has become a part of me. But I don't have the book right now - so I can't add it yet in the text form. The line is spoken
EZRead eBookstore
Jan 26, 2011 EZRead eBookstore rated it really liked it
Shelves: amelia-reviews
Being popular and good-hearted does not usually go hand in hand in high school, but Crutcher does a good portrayal of a heroic teenager with T.J., creating someone who is admirable in almost every way. Good-hearted, funny, and chivalrous, who wouldn’t fall for T.J.? Well, maybe the jocks or bullies who are tired of T.J. standing up to them and making them look dumb with his smart mouth.

Not only does T.J. stand up for the school rejects, he also defends a battered student against her boyfriend a
Apr 05, 2013 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: sports
*Susan Hart
*Crutcher, C. (2001). Whale Talk. New York: Greenwillow Books.
*Selected from YALSA's Best of the Best List
*Cart, M. (2005). Yalsa Best Of The Best: The 100 Best Books for Young Adults. Young Adult Library Services, 4(1), 45-50.

*T.J. Jones is a self-avowed smart ass. To make matters more interesting, he also has a refined sense of justice, is an excellent athlete who refuses to play organized sports (to the extreme ire of the school coaches and the football team) and is one of t
Feb 04, 2012 Melinda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: multicultural
T.J. Jones is tall, handsome, intelligent, athletically gifted, adopted, and angry. He despises how his high school honors athletics over anything else, and refuses to take part in any organized team, much to the frustration of the coaches. Fed up by the jocks in his school and the Athletic Council who award varsity letterman's jackets like the Congressional Medal of Honor, T.J., along with his English teacher Mr. Simet, organize a swim team and recruit a group of misfits and outcasts that will ...more
Lori Holbein-Gutierrez
Personal Reaction:

Realistic Fiction is one of my favorite genres. The book was slow at the beginning, but quickly picked up the pace with more details about the members of the high school swim team. I always like a story about the underdogs and that is what the swim team is. I also liked the diverse backgrounds of the teenage boys on the swim team. They all came from different backgrounds each with their own set of issues that they are dealing with. I loved the character, T.J. Jones. I was surpr
Madison Bates
Dec 08, 2012 Madison Bates rated it really liked it
T.J tries to show that everyone can be something special,and even a group of "outcasts" can do great things. This book is realistic fiction. I recommend it for any teenager,because the language and every teenager can relate to being bullied by someone. One of my favorite quotes is "Nothing exists without its opposite.". I picked this one,because it puts in the aspect of life that we wouldn't know if something was good if it wasnt for the bad stuff. I just made me realize maybe its good to have s ...more
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it it was ok
This is not a very happy book. That is what one expects from Chris Crutcher, anyway. This book is about child abuse, racism, alcoholism, accidentally killing a child, spousal abuse, rape and drug abuse. It is told from the perspective of a high school boy named The Tao Jones, or TJ. He is one of the very few non-Caucasian people in his small, very racist town. The story is about how he recruits a bunch of (male) misfits to form a swim team for his school. The school officials and the 'jocks' are ...more
May 06, 2010 Q_joanneknowles rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students
Recommended to Q_joanneknowles by: Meg
T.J., whose real name is The Tao, was born into a home with a mother who was addicted to crank and crack. T.J. is black, Japanese, and white. Despite growing up with anger issues, he has channeled his rage and grown into an attractive, athletic, smart, and witty (often sarcastic), young man. Despite his athletic ability, he's stayed away from organized sports at school because he despises the jocks, who think they run the school. When T.J. sees Mike, a football star, picking on Chris, a boy with ...more
Jul 13, 2016 Angelina rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-lit
Normally, when I read a book, things like excessive swearing really bother me. But Chris Crutcher is such an amazing storyteller that I really loved this book despite the language. The characters are amazing teenagers, not unlike some of the amazing teenagers I know, and their struggle to be accepted is tear-jerking.
Sep 20, 2007 Meg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teen boys, sports fans, reluctant readers
An adopted black high school senior in very white central Washington brings together a crew of outcasts for a swim team. Good considering the rather ho-hum premise. The main character is believable and a strong narrator, the plot is interesting and well-paced. Good for a reluctant teen reader, especially one with an interest in sports. Some language, not too bad. An interesting look at racism, sports obsession, and what makes a family. Also good in that the adoption thing is presented more as a ...more
Jun 02, 2009 Rebecca rated it liked it
I really appreciated the self confidence and sense of self the protagonist showed in this story. It is rare to find a character who demonstrates this level of healthy self awareness. I think that he stands a great role model of learning how to appreciate the strengths we bring into our communities.

However, I was a little taken back by the overall drama of the book. It reminded me of an after school special or made for T.V. movie. I was left with the impression that if you live in a small town i
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Book Cover 1 5 Jan 31, 2014 09:00PM  
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Chris Crutcher's writing is controversial, and has been frequently challenged and even banned by individuals who want to censor his books by removing them from libraries and classrooms. Running Loose and Athletic Shorts were on the ALA's top 100 list of most frequently challenged books for 1990-2000. His books generally feature teens coping with serious problems, including abusive parents, racial ...more
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“...racist thought and action says far more about the person they come from than the person they are directed at.” 166 likes
“I walk outside and scream at the top of my lungs, and it maybe travels two blocks. A whale unleashes his cry, and it travels hundreds or even thousands of miles. Every whale in the ocean will at one time or another run into that song. And I figure whales probably don't edit. If they think it, they say it...Whale talk is the truth, and in a very short period of time, if you're a whale, you know exactly what it is to be you.” 41 likes
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