(Taken from a reaction post for class; Chris Crowe refers to the author of an article examining the changing face of YA sports novels.)
Upon finishing(Taken from a reaction post for class; Chris Crowe refers to the author of an article examining the changing face of YA sports novels.)
Upon finishing Whale Talk, I had exactly the reaction that Chris Crowe disliked—“this is more than just a sports book!” Having little experience with YA sports literature (besides The Contender), and little interest in sports themselves, I chose Whale Talk in order to read something out of my comfort zone, something that appealed to sports-loving boys and reluctant readers. I wasn’t expecting the book to be so gripping! Even just considering the sports aspect, it’s exciting to read about a tense struggle to succeed, about a team’s training and camaraderie and the personal satisfaction they get from a sport. While a sports-loving teen may get another layer of satisfaction from a sports novel, readers do not need to care about sports to enjoy the novel.
I especially loved how Whale Talk treated racism and other forms of prejudice. As a review on GoodReads put it, racism is a major aspect of Whale Talk, but Whale Talk is not about racism. While “problem novels” have their place, they can start to feel preachy or overly depressing when all they’re focused on is the problem. The horror of Heidi scrubbing off her skin because of her own father’s bigotry hits us even harder because we’re not expecting unbelievable racism just from reading the back cover of the book. And the fact that T.J. has experienced enough racism that’s he’s used to it, that he can frankly talk about how his teammates have it worse, is painful to read.
Speaking of serious issues treated well, I adored the character of Georgia Brown and how therapy was realistically treated in the novel. I wasn’t surprised to find out that Chris Crutcher is a therapist; he avoids the traps that authors often fall into, such as acting like needing therapy is failure and portraying mental health professionals as villains who just want to eradicate children’s personalities by drugging children into oblivion.
As for character growth, I adored T.J. as a protagonist and suspect teens would, too. He’s smart, sarcastic, and his narration doesn’t shy away from tough topics. His growth as a character, as he figures out how to really beat the bullies and becomes close to his outcast teammates, is very well handled. He may be more together than many teens, but he feels very realistic. His relationship with his father is wonderful—and his father, driven by regret, is a great character in his own right.
(view spoiler)[The shocking violence of his father's death was painful. (I’m not sure if I love the ending—although it was very much built up to, it felt out of place after the false ending of Chris winning the team their letter jackets. I’ll think on that.) (hide spoiler)]
In sum, I would highly recommend this book to any teen, especially those who have faced racism or who feel like outcasts. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
**spoiler alert** An excellent YA book, and not just for readers into sports. The story focuses on Alfred's growing boxing career, but it isn't really**spoiler alert** An excellent YA book, and not just for readers into sports. The story focuses on Alfred's growing boxing career, but it isn't really *about* boxing--it's about Alfred discovering something that motivates him and realizing he wants to do something with his life. I thought it was really interesting how it's clear boxing really isn't Alfred's passion, from Mr. Donatelli outright telling him he's not vicious enough to continue on professionally to Alfred just shrugging when asked if he loves being in the ring. It's obvious from the beginning that winning isn't Alfred's real goal; the theme of being a contender is a bit heavy-handed, but very effective anyway. I loved following Alfred's journey, and him finally being in a place to help James made for a great ending.
My one complaint is that Major's motives are confusing, making him an ineffective villain. His bullying of Alfred, tempting James into drug use, and trying to pal around with Alfred once he's a boxer is all realistic--but the reason why he's friendly to Alfred later on is completely unexplored in the book, as Alfred doesn't even wonder about it. Some sense of Alfred's feelings towards Major, his suspicion (or lack of suspicion) of his "change of heart," would have made Major a more interesting character....more