Author Chris Crutcher touches on many different issues within “Whale Talk.” The main character, T. J. Jones, aka The Tao Jones, is a multi-racial boy who is both smart and athletic. However, he shuns team sports at his school because he doesn't like the attitude of the “jocks” who make up the school's prominent teams. Even the coaches and organizers are racist and cruel to animals.
Although T. J. Jones has always refused to support the organized sports at his school, he sees an opportunity to get back at coaches and athletes at his school by supporting a new swim team. There is only one problem. The Cutter High School swim team doesn't even have a pool to practice in. T. J. Jones doesn't let this stop him, though. He recruits some of the school's most unpopular misfits: a fat boy, a one legged boy with a bad attitude, and a boy usually ridiculed for being retarded. T. J. Jones is determined to make sure that each of the boys earns a varsity letter jacket. This jacket is a highly coveted symbol that is usually reserved for white jocks who are buddies with the coaches that T. J. Jones despises so much.
As T. J. Jones helps the motley group of misfits to become an organized swim team he finds that they are also developing in other ways too. Under the influence of friendship and a feeling of being wanted the boys come to realize that their own worth does not depend on their popularity with the other students.
“Whale Talk” is a fairly broad reaching book. In reading it I felt that Chris Crutcher was trying to cover every issue available, from racism, to school corruption, to child abuse. “Whale Talk” is not exactly a polished masterpiece. I felt that Crutcher used far too much profanity. By choosing to tell the story through T. J. Jones he gives the novel a personal attitude, but T. J. Jones himself has an attitude half admirable, half disappointing. Overall “Whale Talk” was not a book that appealed to me. Sports and school popularity struggles can be good plot topics if they are handled properly. However, “Whale Talk” comes across as rough, with an ending that fails to satisfy.
“Whale Talk” is a book that I wouldn't waste my time reading.
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