Every time I booktalk this one, a student snatches it up afterward, and I always feel like he or she is in for such a treat if they haven't come across Chris Crutcher before. His books are edgy, humorous, and pertinent. He's used to being on banned book lists and to irritating adults. He doesn't back off of tough subjects because he knows that we all need to have the realities of this world acknowledged and our own small worlds stretched. Here's my review of Whale Talk from Goodreads:
TJ is a third white, a third black, a third Japanese in a very white community in Washington state. He's an athletic guy, but as much as the football coach and the basketball coach hound him about his duty to the school, TJ shies away from organized sports... he's never liked the air of entitlement and superiority that he sees among some of the Cutter High coaches and athletes. But when a teacher he respects asks him to take the lead in starting a swim team, TJ agrees... and goes on to assemble the oddest assortment of misfits one could imagine. But these misfits have a lot to teach the folks of Cutter High about sportsmanship and heroism and truly playing as a team. There's a lot going on in the book other than the sports: child abuse, marital abuse, prejudice, bullying. But Crutcher is at his best when he's directing his sharp, intelligent humor at tough issues that adults don't always want to admit that kids face.