The Tao Jones, better known as TJ, is an all-around athlete. However, he’s never played on a school team. A biracial child adopted by a lily-white couple in rural Utah, TJ has been avoiding the athletic community in his hometown his whole life. Because in this town, high school athletics are practically a religion and TJ just doesn’t see himself being a teenage god. However, when the jocks at his high school take things too far and begin bullying a special needs student, TJ takes matters into his own hands and creates a swim team of misfits ranging from a genius to a mute. The swim team shocks everyone with its success. Their impending athletic letters cause a ruckus among not only the students, but within the staff as well. Does TJ have what it takes to make lettering athletes out of his teammates?
Diving into a severely racist community and bringing up hard to swallow issues like child abuse and murder, Whale Talk covers the spectrum in a way young adult literature rarely sees. From the main character, the reader gets a dose of what it’s like to stand up for what’s right and go down fighting for it. And from the colorful cast of swimmers, jocks, and family, the reader gets a glimpse of what it’s like to be neglected, abused, tormented, and lots more. The large amount of controversy in this book blends together in a way that only Chris Crutcher could create. The characters are real and jump off the page to greet you and the issues they face are quick to follow.