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Whale Talk

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  10,746 ratings  ·  1,171 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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Taylor Siedel
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  10,746 ratings  ·  1,171 reviews

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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
Feb 19, 2015 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
Wendy F
Aug 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 13, 2011 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
Jessica Abarquez
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Finished. Some language, lots of dialogue by the author that clearly belies that he'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 kid being bullied for wearing his dead brother's letter jacket, the protagonist, an athletic multiracial adopted boy (these details are ...more
Celia Buell
I haven't had a day recently where I got to sit down with the sole purpose of starting and finishing a novel, and I kind of feel like this wasn't a great one to do that with.

It's not that I didn't like Whale Talk, just that it seemed to be missing some elements. While there was a strong plot and a lot of character development, there just didn't seem to be a lot for the characters to develop from. There also wasn't much conflict, and the book just kind of ended when things were resolved, but lack
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 s
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Crutcher is so good at writing sports novels. I remember meeting him in high school before I'd really read any of his books and I thought he was the coolest person ever. I had a bit of star shock to my little brain, but I still enjoy his novels! Also he's like 74 now, just damn.

TJ Jones is not convinced that Cutter high school needs a swim team. But after witnessing one of the school bullies harass his friend over a letter jacket, he's determined to pull together the least likeliest team ever a
Maximillian Jackson
Oct 04, 2011 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 11, 2012 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
May 28, 2010 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
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students
Recommended to Joanne 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
Apr 22, 2015 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 01, 2008 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
Aug 31, 2011 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 09, 2011 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...
Erica Odell
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Chris Crutcher writes the perfect problem novel. This is not to be confused with a problematic novel, in which proper representation of diversity is missing from a novel. A problem novel shows its readers the bad and the good of the society they live in. It is not a happy-go-lucky book, but shows what teens wonder and or worry about in terms of sex, drugs, money, peer pressure, health problems, etc.

Whale Talk has plenty of problems that the main character as well as secondary characters face. Th
B.A. Wilson
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: contemporary, ya, sports
There's something really wrong with me, because every time I pick up a Chris Crutcher book, I love it and really connect with it, yet I'm always hesitating to read his stories. He writes really raw, honest characters who have messy lives, and his stories are both unique and unexpected, while still being easy to relate to.

This gem with an ugly cover is about a teen boy who starts up a ragtag swim team full of unlikely athletes, in order to prove a point to the overreaching athletics committee th
Victoria Heffner
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Oh boy, do I have some things to say about this book.

From the very beginning, this book was hard for me to get through. If it wasn't a book club book, I probably wouldn't have bothered finishing it, simply because it was kind of boring for me. The book was almost tedious to get through, and I was often confused with what exactly was happening, because there were three stories happening at once.

The absolute worst part was the very end. The book seemed to be wrapping up nicely, and should've just
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I see why this book makes it to so many high school reading lists. I had some real fun reading it. It has humor in it, but it touches on some deep issues in society, and why they are not as simple as you think. Although these issues are based in America, you will find that these are true in other countries too. An amazing read for me.
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I went into this book not knowing much about it’s plot or it’s characters. I came out of this book with the knowledge that this book was all to familiar to experiences all across the U.S., my high school included. In a school where a jacket means king, one boy aims to shatter the hierarchy like glass.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was drawn to the cute new cover and its tale of a misfit swim team who want to earn letter jackets. The book feels a bit dated, but I can’t resist an underdog sport story and the ending is a heartbreaking punch in the gut.
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a heavy book. I found myself in tears multiple times throughout it. It is so well written and covers so many important issues without any of them seeming underexplored or underdeveloped. This would be a hard read for younger kids / teens, but it’s definitely worth getting to at some point.
Brianna Buckingham
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
I chose to read this book by Chris Crutcher after recently meeting him in my YA literature class. I had never read a book by Chris Crutcher and I am so glad I did. I wasn't too interested in it when i read that it was about a group of boys who are brought together by being on the same swim team, but I gave it a chance and really enjoyed it. I chose this book for my banned book category and loved that it was about a relatable main character, friendships, and even tragedy included. I enjoyed the h ...more
Jan 23, 2013 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
Apr 05, 2013 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
EZRead eBookstore
Jan 26, 2011 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
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Although I was not excited about reading this book, or just reading in general, I kinda enjoyed it. It is told by a boy named The Tao Jones or T.J who is, biracial and adopted by a white mother and father that he loves very much. At his high school, the letter jacket is the best thing, and in a town centered around atheltics, more football than anything, T.J. is disliked because he refuses to participate in any school centered sports. He doesn't like being told what to do. T.J. has a lot of natu ...more
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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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