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Swim the Fly

Review

Swim the Fly

Best friends Matt Gratton, Coop and Sean always set a goal for themselves each summer. This year Coop has come up with the best one so far: to see a “real, live naked girl” for the first time. Matt doesn’t think they will find a way to achieve it, but the trio creates several elaborate plans to make their dream come true. Most of them fail, but one “fool proof” idea actually succeeds. Sort of.

If that weren’t enough, the teens are also on the Rockville swim team. Their coach needs someone to “swim the fly” (the 100-yard butterfly), which is generally considered the toughest stroke. Matt volunteers, even though he can barely do the butterfly, much less swim it competitively for such a long distance. He wants to impress the newest member of the team, Kelly West, who has turned from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. So what if Kelly is going out with the best swimmer on one of the opposing teams, a buff guy whose best stroke is the butterfly?

When Matt tries to train his body to meet the rigors of the race, he runs into all kinds of trouble, like trying to sneak into a private pool so he won’t have to practice in front of his friends and accidentally trashing his brother’s room when he’s using his brother’s weights to build his muscles.

While reading SWIM THE FLY, it’s easy to identify with Matt’s fears and insecurities. He’s skinny and geeky, and not the type of guy beautiful Kelly would be impressed with. It’s hard to imagine him ever being tough enough to “swim the fly” for 100 yards, either. Yet you find yourself rooting for him to succeed, despite all the obstacles.

Author Don Calame has given us a glimpse into the mind of a teenage boy, as this book is based on a true story from his adolescence when he was asked by his coach to swim the 100-yard butterfly. Like the character here, Calame was a skinny teen who knew he would lose the race to the biggest, strongest kid on one of the other teams. In an interview, he was asked, “What do you want readers to take away from this novel?” He replied, “Mostly I’d like my readers to have a good time with the characters and the story --- to laugh a whole lot, to be entertained.” I think he succeeded admirably.

If you’re easily offended by the use of foul language and crude references to bodily functions and male body parts, be advised that the narrative and dialogue is liberally laced with both. I understand the reason for their inclusion, particularly in a book of this nature, but the story would have been just as strong without them --- or at least without so many of them. Having said that, my advice to you is simply to enjoy SWIM THE FLY.

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Reviewed by Christine Irvin on October 18, 2011

Swim the Fly
by Don Calame

  • Publication Date: April 14, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick
  • ISBN-10: 076364157X
  • ISBN-13: 9780763641573