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) to find their places in a school that has no place for them, the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to carve out their own turf. T. J. is convinced that a varsity letter jacket--unattainable for most, exclusive, revered, the symbol (as far as T. J. is concerned) of all that is screwed up at Cutter High--will be an effective carving tool. He's right. He's also wrong.
Still, it's always the quest that counts. And the bus on which the Mermen travel to swim meets--piloted by Icko, the permanent resident of All, Night Fitness--soon becomes the cocoon inside which they gradually allow themselves to talk, to fit, to bloom.
Chris Crutcher is in top form with a cast of characters--adults, children, and teenagers--fighting for dignity in a world where tragedy and comedy dance side by side, where a moment's inattention can bring lifelong heartache, and where true acceptance is the only prescription for what ails us.
"This being Crutcher, the action is fast and furious, the language foul, the victims' stories heart-rending, the climax violent and the themes thought-provoking." ~Chicago Tribune
"In the hands of a lesser storyteller, the tale would fall apart under its own weight. But Crutcher (Ironman, 1995, etc) juggles the disparate elements of his plot with characteristic energy, crafting a compulsively readable story that rings true with genuine feeling and is propelled by exhilarating swimming action to an end that is both cataclysmic and triumphant." ~Kirkus
"[Crutcher] uses well-constructed characters and quick pacing to examine how the sometimes cruel and abusive circumstances of life affect every link in the human chain. A heartwrenching series of plot twists leads to an end in which goodness at least partially prevails." ~Booklist
"Crutcher uses a broad brush in an undeniably robust and energetic story....T. J. himself is witty, self-assured, fearless, intelligent, and wise beyond his years." ~School Library Journal
"Crutcher offers an unusual yet resonant mixture of black comedy and tragedy that lays bare the superficiality of the high school scene. The book's shocking climax will force readers to re-examine their own values and may cause them to alter their perception of individuals pegged as 'losers.'" ~Publisher's Weekly
"Crutcher's superior gifts as a storyteller and his background as a working therapist combine to make magic in Whale Talk. The thread of truth in his fiction reminds us that heroes can come in any shape, color, ability or size, and friendship can bridge nearly any divide. A truly exceptional book." ~Washington Post
"Crutcher knows his stuff, and he pumps adrenaline through the sports scenes while honestly acknowledging the personal struggles of his adolescent readers." ~Horn Book
"Whale Talk is a heartwarming story that keeps you on the edge of your seat to the very end of the book. Crutcher's skill at making each character come to life is nothing short of amazing. From love to lust, from life to death, from right to wrong, this book deals with real situations and posits real solutions. I strongly recommend this book to teens and adults because the lessons it teaches will stay with you." ~ Philadelphia Inquirer
" Crutcher is at his darkest but also his funniest here, and the book conveys his most timely message—forgiveness, not revenge." ~VOYA
"Whale Talk provides an opportunity for young readers, as well as parents and teachers, to learn some profoundly important lessons about life. Much like a whale out on the ocean who sings because it needs to, whether its song is heard by other whales or not, everyone needs to sing their own song -- of trauma and of triumph" ~Recess, PBS "Kids read Chris Crutcher (Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Ironman, Athletic Shorts) because his works speak for them; he advocates in a manner that adults should pay attention to, as well." ~ ALAN Review
"Librarians say Crutcher, who's written a string of acclaimed books, is one of the few writers who really "gets" teenage boys. His elaborate plotlines and offbeat characters remind us of novelist John Irving." ~ Contra Costa Times
"This is a remarkable book. It deals with the hardest of issues and yet it leaves you inspired, even hopeful, that kids can heal. I highly recommend WHALE TALK. It's a novel you or your children will never forget." ~ Chinaberry
"Chris Crutcher, therapist and author of seven prize-winning young adult books, here gives his many fans another wise and compassionate story full of the intensity of athletic competition and hair-raising incidents of child abuse. " ~Amazon.com
"Crutcher's wry wisecracking is in full force in WHALE TALK's hero, T. J. Jones, whose good heart and flair for the sarcastic make him one of my favorite teen book characters ever." ~Teenreads.com
AUDIO BOOK: "There's a lot of dialogue in this book and Corrigan's fully-voiced reading skillfully individualizes the characters in Crutcher's novel of redemption and loss. However, the voice that really stands out, as it should, is that of TJ. It is a strong voice, with just the right connotations of youth. I am always amazed at how my perception of a book is often different when I listen to it. I was one of Whale Talk's strong defenders when it was published last year, and yet I have a new appreciation for Crutcher's storytelling and new insights into the characters after listening to this audio book." ~ Capitol Choices Noteworthy
"Told with passion and humor, this is a real winner." ~ Kliatt, 2003
Awards & Honors
2005 ALA Popular Paperbacks for YA 2002 ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award 2002 Washington State Book Award 2002 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award 2002 Outstanding Sports Book Award/YA ALA Best Book for YA TLA Tayshas List New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age ALA Top 10 Best Books for YA Book Sense 76 Pick Nominee 2003-2004 Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee 2003-2004 Iowa High School Book Award Nominee 2003-2004 South Carolina YA Book Award Nominee 2004 Nevada Young Reader Award Nominee Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee 2004 Pacific Northwest Young Reader Choice Award Nominee 2003-2004 Virginia Young Reader's Program Nominee 2003-2004 California Young Reader Medal Nominee 2003 Heartland Award Nominee 2003-2004 ILF Rosie Nominee 2003 Missouri Gateway Award Nominee 2003 Pennsylvania Readers Choice Nominee 2003 Volunteer State Book Award Nominee 2003 Soaring Eagle Wyoming Young Adult Book Award Nominee 2002 Rhode Island Teen Book Awards Nominee 2002 Maryland's Black-Eyed Susan Award Nominee 2002 Colorado Blue Spruce Award